Ireland need to be wary of being blown off course in Edinburgh
Captain Rory Best says visitors will tailor their game plan to account for Storm Erik at Murrayfield
Ireland captain Rory Best with his team-mates during the captain’s run at Murrayfield. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Listen to the wind blow. Conor Murray had kicking tee in hand for Friday practice in unfamiliar Scottish headquarters. So did Stuart Hogg earlier that morning.
The big boomers may well decide a contest certain to be dictated by conditions.
Weather reports predict 113km/h gales and flooding as the invading Storm Erik takes hold. Edinburgh Castle is shut to tourists. Far too blustery.
The Met Office announced a “yellow warning”. Fear not, yellow is a paler shade of “amber”. Not to worry, amber is nothing compared to the “red warning” rolling from the Highlands last March.
Still, in sporting terms, especially mastery of an oval ball, this landscape demands tactical minds tuned to the same frequency.
Rory Best and Johnny Sexton are in command.
“We’ll tailor our game plan accordingly,” Best calmly stated. “If the rain comes and stays it will be difficult. Certainly myself and Johnny will have to plan how we see the game going from a captain and a general point of view. We got to be massively adaptable. We probably should have adapted better last week. We got to think quick on our feet this week.”
Those seeking an open, entertaining spectacle need not apply.
“Certainly more difficult for the nines and 10s in terms of kicking game, passing game, everything really. It’s vitally important the halfbacks give the team direction on a day like that. Make sure we get the ball in the right direction.”
So, local knowledge inside the swirling bowl, could prove an enormous advantage.
“Potentially yeah, but I think everyone knows the way Scotland want to play the game...”
Finn Russell will seek to put Stuart Hogg and friends galloping into open grass.
“. . . We won’t really deviate from that but we got to be smart; pick our times when we want to play.”
Romain Poite and the touch judges will have been pressed by Joe Schmidt to ensure Irish chasers have a clear run and leap in pursuit of Murray box kicks, unlike the white wall England were permitted to erect last week in Dublin.
Storm Erik consumes the minds of travelling Irish hoards, impacting all methods of transport and potentially decreasing the fun.
“We’ll see what it’s like tomorrow,” Laidlaw continued. “It’s good for us we’re at home. The way wind is in Murrayfield it is probably a bit tricky. Hopefully our experience of playing here more than the Irish boys we can use that to our advantage.
“We feel we have a good game plan to play in these conditions. It’s key we get off to a good start. Make sure we are nice and disciplined, stay in the kick battle. Don’t play too early if it’s not on.
“If it’s on, we are going to go and take our opportunities. That’s part of the challenge – choosing when to play. We’ll take a 3-0 win if somebody wants to give it to us.”
The presumption, this time, is Ireland will be primed for the physicality but Devin Toner is gone and Seán O’Brien is going and the team are hurting.
“The Sunday night meeting,” Best revealed, “and Monday morning was tough. It would be stupid and naive to bury your head in the sand and say ‘don’t worry, it will be fine next week’. We have never lived by that, and as long as Joe is around or I am around that will never be a model we will live by.
“We need to start well and cut out the mistakes.”
In the captain and the general all Ireland trust.