RugbyOut on the Full

Six Nations: Scotland could pose a real threat to Ireland as they seek to regain former glory

Ireland v Scotland will see Andy Farrell’s men face a side that dominated territory and had 60 per cent possession against France

Scotland outhalf Finn Russell was at the heart of his team's best and worst moments in the defeat to France. Photograph: Getty Images

Italy managed, at one stage, to make their match against Ireland a four point game. Scotland too brought their scoreline with France to four points as the contest moved into the dying minutes.

While Italy and Scotland lost, both teams respectively left Rome and Paris with more good feelings about themselves than they had going into the games. That’s the mood Scotland will bring to Murrayfield in two weeks as the next side up to try and deny Ireland the Grand Slam.

Although, after the match against France there will be more than denying Ireland on Scotland’s radar. Both Scotland and Ireland are available to win the Triple Crown and the Championship. Scotland have never won a Six Nations Grand Slam, Championship or Triple Crown, their last win in the competition coming in the 1999 Five Nations event.

But how different it could have been if Scottish efficiency had won out in St Denis. Scotland’s clinical nature is one of the aspects of their play that Townsend will work on over the coming days.


Both Ireland and Scotland will be pointing to the positives after imperfect performances. Ireland missed a clutch of frontline players who Andy Farrell says will be back, while Scotland played better than they did in either of their wins over Wales and England.

Even head coach Gregor Townsend acknowledged the improvement, claiming his Scotland side had delivered “their best performance of the season.”

He went on to add: “It feels weird saying that after a defeat ... I’m disappointed with the result but we’ll take a lot from how we played.”

What Ireland will face is a side that dominated territory with 55 per cent and held most of the possession with 60 per cent, especially in the second half. Scotland also failed to capitalise on several dominant positions and try scoring opportunities.

Townsend can look around for ifs and buts in the match and possibly find some aspects that are easily fixed with greater attention to detail.

On one occasion prop Zander Ferguson lost control of the ball just inches from the French line, while in another Jamie Richie miss timed his pass to a charging Duhan van der Merwe, enough at least to allow Anthony Jelonch snuff out the move.

Scotland outhalf Finn Russell had a Bundee Aki type of game. Like the Irish centre, Russell threw a pass that was intercepted by fullback Tomas Ramos to hand a try to France, while he also scored a try and played some typically exciting rugby.

Scotland’s perfect Six Nations record ended by France after disastrous startOpens in new window ]

With around 10 minutes to play the attacking Scotland lineout at the halfway line was overthrown by Fraser Brown, giving France entry to the Scottish half, when they could have set up camp in French territory and made something of it. It was a wasted attacking platform as well as an energy sapper that Scotland didn’t need at that stage of the match.

What Ireland will face is a Scottish team that can play with tempo as well as vary the points of contact. With players like conductor Russell, Stuart Hogg, van der Merwe and outside centre Huw Jones, who scored his 13th try against England and carried 12 times for 138 metres with two more tries in Stade de France, Scotland can play with threat and a cutting edge.

The Scotland forwards were also competitive against a bigger French pack and although the sides were down to 14 men after high tackles early in the game cost each team a red card, Scotland came out well in the collisions.

Ireland’s team will change with captain Johnny Sexton, outside centre Garry Ringrose, as well as scrumhalf Jamison Gibson Park and others likely to be back in playing order.

But if Scotland can erase the inaccuracies, be as competitive as they were with similar physicality and win anything approaching the same possession and territory they will threaten Ireland.

With Russell’s excellent tactical kicking and showing the heart they did in coming back from 19-0 down with a strong maul and scrum, Scotland could feel Ireland in Edinburgh to be the first step towards regaining the former glory they have not felt for almost a quarter of a century.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times