So here we go. Irish supporters are now holding their bums out of the bath for fear of getting scorched by a hungry Scotland. Every other week we would drop into the hot bath with confidence, but this week there is hesitation.
So with that mental image, let’s have a look at Ireland’s trip to Scotland.
Coming off last week, to recap for the final time, a bad day at the office, not as bad as you would hear the media talk about but not good. The media are getting the horn for the downfall, which is an Irish thing. Look at every single Irish success story; whether it is in the arts, music or sport, we are just rubbing our hands together waiting for them to fall. In this case the media have hopped on the negativity train far too early and this weekend will show it.
Ireland roll into beautiful Scotland with the England shoe laces still outlined on their arses. It still hurts and this is massively important. The triggers from last week need to be recognised and used as motivation. If anyone sees a team mate being silent or out of character that will be pointed out and sorted. The team will take the field ready to go.
Scotland on the other hand are a year ahead of schedule, they come in off an easy but lazy win against Italy. They allowed Italy to score 3 tries in the second half and showed that they are like a talented teenager, depending on skill without having the balls to see the game out.
Again, apologies for the mental images.
Scotland have picked a strong team, the spine of the starting 15 is strong. Hogg at 15, 9 and 10 of Laidlaw and Russell with Jonny Gray back in at 5. That is a strong spine for the team to operate around. Maitland has been brought back in as a record try scorer and a top level performer in blue. Much like Kearney in green, Scotland sees that they won’t have many scoring opportunities and will need to pounce on the ones they get. Kinghorn on the bench is playing great rugby and could be a second half threat. Scotland looks to put in a performance and test the Irish resolve.
Ireland on the other hand is testing the strength of the squad that Joe has built since the last RWC. Kearney back in at 15, which is tough on Henshaw (late injury) as it would have been a vote of confidence for him to get another shot at 15 if that was still the plan (it may not be). Henshaw being injured is tough, but with every dark cloud comes the monster from Munster. Chris Farrell is back to partner the indestructible Aki in midfield and this has me really excited. 2 monsters that can play ball. Aki got a bit of grief last week, but he wasn’t able to get time to execute. This week he and Farrell will have time and will be picking the teeth of the Scottish lads out of their boots all day. Can’t wait for this. In the second row James Ryan has his name on the jersey and the underrated Quinn Roux partners him with Toner injured. Roux has been strong for Connacht and is operating the lineout there and will work well with Ryan. Scotland will aim at him; he knows that so let’s see how he deals with Gray leading the blue line towards him.
The rest of the team lines up nearly like for like. Front row has something to prove, second row covered, the back row brings in the notorious S O’B in for JVDF beside O’Mahony and Conan the barbarian in for Stander (more on him below). The back row is insane no matter who plays. JVDF is ahead of O’Brien based on form; this is getting Seanie on the pitch for as long as we can to get him back to match fitness.
The Irish bench is still strong. Cronin, Porter, Dillane and Larmour being the standouts in terms of upping the tempo in the second half. Scotland got lazy against Italy, if they do that this week they will be ruined.
No back to Stander, the last thing about last week is the painting of him as brave for playing over an hour with a cracked face. This is just awful. Yes he is a warrior, they all are! But it is the medics / staff job to take care of the player. Of course he wanted to play on. Much like O’Driscoll against England in 09, he should have been saved from doing himself damage. For anyone to say the medics didn’t know he had a fractured eye socket and cheekbone, then they aren’t very good are they? Look! We have to take care of our players, now we are without Stander for 4 weeks! The players are there to cover, especially in the back row!
So what is the prediction?
Well, Ireland will win. I see Scotland feeling the pressure in the last 25 minutes and wilting. As long as Ireland can start strong, bring in the strangulation rugby and be threatening everywhere while keeping the discipline from last week they will win well. The game should be over before 65 minutes if Ireland operate at the usual 80% output.
Ireland by between 7 and 10 points.
As a SUPPORTER I will be watching, cheering and shouting for the duration and won’t be leaving the couch until the end! I hope you all do the same!
@nkeegan on twitter and www.thecouchpunditireland.com for more.