Ireland will be bitterly disappointed with their World Cup campaign under Joe Schmidt and they now head into this tournament under the tutelage of previous defence coach Andy Farrell.
Indeed, the new head coach will still be hurting from that 32-point defeat they suffered at the hands of New Zealand in the quarters, but they’ll be looking to rebuild for France in 2023.
One team that did even worse than that was Scotland, who’ll still be cursing about their recent trip to Japan as they failed to even make it out the pool. That leaves Gregor Townsend’s position in the balance and poor performances over the next few months will leave the board with no other option but to give him the boot.
To make things worse, he’s been forced to leave out fly half Finn Russell after the stand-off breached “team protocol” during a drinking session and now questions are being asked as to whether the two can work together in the future, let alone this opener.
Ireland To Win By Over 12-Points
It’s been a fairly one-sided head-to-head since the tournament switched to six teams at the turn of the century. Ireland have won 16 of the 20 such matches, including nine of 10 at either Lansdowne Road or Croke Park as their sole defeat came 10 years ago.
In fact, seven of those victories in their home town came by more than 17 points and so we’re a little surprised to see the handicap line at just 14, especially since the Irish prevailed by a comprehensive scoreline of 27-3 in the recent World Cup pool match, and that was the visitors at full strength.
Farrell has opted for two uncapped players in his squad to face Scotland, as former U20’s captain Caelan Doris gets a starting birth at the back of the scrum. He’ll have all experienced heads Devin Toner, Peter O’Mahony and Robbie Henshaw to call on from the bench, which gives us even more confidence in their chances.
The Scots have named uncapped No.8 Nick Haining as part of their back row, who’ll be flanked by familiar faces from Edinburgh in Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson. Huw Jones has been recalled in the middle of the park, though ultimately the Irish should be too strong for them on the day.
The final nail in the peripheral coffin for Scotland is that fact their record on the road to fellow Six Nations sides in this competition is a miserly W1-D1-L40 since 2000 when excluding Italy.
Indeed, 23 of those defeats came by more than 12 points, including four of five since March 2017 as the only time they didn’t lose by at least that margin was after they turned around a 31-point deficit against England.
We certainly don’t think they’re capable of producing a performance like that again, so the over 12 point winning margin looks a solid bet.
IRELAND V SCOTLAND TEAMS
Ireland: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jonathan Sexton (c), 9 Conor Murray, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 CJ Stander, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 John Cooney, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Robbie Henshaw
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (c), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Chris Harris
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