Ireland look to end bruising campaign with a win against Scotland in Edinburgh

Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams confident that lineout issues have been resolved

The Ireland squad huddle during the captain's run at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh ahead of Saturday's Six Nations match against Scotland. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho

Scotland v Ireland, DAM Health Stadium, Saturday 7.30pm (Live Virgin Media Two and BBC iPlayer)

Looking for cohesion in his side, Irish women’s rugby coach Greg McWilliams has placed his trust in the same starting 15 that lined out against England last weekend as they seek their first win of this Six Nations championship.

McWilliams agrees that it has not been easy for a talented but largely inexperienced group of players, who have been seriously tested by a run of four consecutive defeats and 156 points scored against them.

Ireland sit sixth in the table with zero points, with Scotland in fourth place on five points.

“It has been difficult but also really, really enjoyable,” said McWilliams. “This has been a really challenging Six Nations. I’m proud of the players. It hasn’t been easy, you’re dead right but they have kept fighting.”


For McWilliams, the difficulty is not losing faith but having faith and he believes this team can register their first win in Edinburgh. The squad has worked hard all week particularly on the lineout, which broke down against England and constantly knocked the team back as they sought attacking platforms.

“John McKee has done terrific work on the lineout. It just hasn’t clicked yet,” addded McWilliams of Ireland’s set piece. “Sometimes that’s the beauty of sport, it’s battling through those moments.

“We are excited to see where the lineout is this weekend. They’ve worked hard had good chunks of time. Players have bought into it and John as always has a got a really clear process. Trust me we totally understand the importance of our set piece.

Vicky Irwin and Neve Jones share a laugh during the captain's run in Edinburgh. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho

“Our scrum is also evolving. We’ve seen our scrum probably being one of the really good areas in this Six Nations that’s getting better and better. It’s another chance for us to test both the scrum and the lineout. There’s no doubt the players will be looking this weekend to show how good that lineout can be.”

Ireland face a Scotland side that has just come off 12 straight defeats with a 29-21 victory over Italy. Coach Bryan Easson believes his team have turned a corner in terms of their confidence while Ireland continue to struggle.

The incentive for Scotland is that they can still finish third in the championship if they record a bonus-point victory over Ireland, while overturning a points difference of 67 between them and Wales, who finish their campaign away to Italy.

The game will take place in Edinburgh’s DAM Health Stadium, where ticket sales have reached 4,000 for the game, already beating the previous record of 3,988.

“It’s going to be a record crowd, so we know it’s going to be a big challenge,” said McWilliams. “Our main focus has to be on our ability to play. There’s been a good energy this week.

“I think last week we showed really good resilience and I think now it’s about connecting a little bit better and being smarter in how we play, which will hopefully allow us show what we are about with the ball, score some tries and hopefully excite the crowd.”

On the upside, a convincing win for Ireland could see the team finish fourth if other results on the day go their way. Easson has made one change to Scotland’s starting side with Emma Orr starting at outside centre having completed the return-to-play protocols.

The fit-again Dorothy Wall is recalled to the matchday Irish squad as she and Ailsa Hughes are named among the replacements in the only two changes in personnel from last weekend.

SCOTLAND: C Rollie; C Grant, E Orr, M Smith, F McGhie; H Nelson, M McDonald; L Bartlett, L Skeldon, C Belisle; J Konkel-Roberts, L McMillan; R Malcolm (capt), R McLachlan, E Gallagher.

Replacements: J Rettie, A Young, E Clarke, E Donaldson, E Sinclair, C Mattinson, B Blacklock, L Musgrove

IRELAND: L Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby); A Doyle (Railway Union/Munster), A Dalton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), V Irwin (Sale Sharks/Ulster), N Behan (Blackrock College/Leinster); D O’Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster), M Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union/Leinster); L Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster), N Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury/Ulster), C Haney (Blackrock College/Leinster); N Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht) (capt), S Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby); B Hogan (Old Belvedere/Ulster), G Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby), D Nic a Bháird (Old Belvedere/Munster).

Replacements: C Nielson (Exeter Chiefs/IQ Rugby), S McGrath (City of Derry/Cooke RFC/Ulster), K Buggy (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby), H O’Connor (Blackrock College/Leinster), D Wall (Blackrock College/Munster), A Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster), Anna McGann (Railway Union/Connacht), M Deely (Blackrock College/Connacht).

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times