Minimum changes for Ireland but maximum respect for Scotland

Heightened threat of rejuvenated visitors a real challenge for home coaching team

Cian Healy could come back onto the bench for Saturday’s game against Scotland.

Cian Healy could come back onto the bench for Saturday’s game against Scotland.

 

If ever there was a case for a coaching ticket to keep their selection meeting to a minimum, then this week must be it. A nine tries to two, 58-15 rout after a four-game winless run seems like a fairly open and shut case to retain the same starting XV for Saturday’s hosting of the rejuvenated Scots. After all, as this game will decide whether Ireland finish third or fifth, it will define their campaign.

The only issues appear to be whether to recall the fit-again duo of Cian Healy and Eoin Reddan to the bench, although skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy (who forecast that Rory Best would recover form his calf strain to resume training tomorrow) did his best yesterday to maintain that matters wouldn’t be that straightforward for the Ireland coaches.

“It’s funny, you’d think that but we sat down last night to discuss selection and there was actually quite a lot of discussion. Over the last couple of weeks there’s been a lot of areas where we’ve sat down and had conversations about players for a long period of time, where probably before now it’s been easier to just go ‘bang, bang, bang, there’s the team, off we go’.

“I don’t necessarily think that just because we won and scored nine tries to just go ‘right, we’ll move that into the following week’ . . . We’re going to select the team quite late this week, it’ll be Thursday before we select it.”

Second Captains

Improving

Scotland

“I think they’ve been getting every year for the last few years,” said Murphy. “If you look at their club sides, they’re improving as well . . . They have an ability to play a few different types of games now. They have a big strong pack, a good driving maul, yet they’ve got two centres who are able to shift the ball and also carry and they have a fantastic back three with plenty of pace.”

Murphy would not go so far as to concede this was the best Scottish team of the Six Nations. “That’s a difficult one. They’re definitely one of the better ones we’ve seen over the last four or five years.”

“There was less than seven points between them and England and between them and Wales. They had both of them under a lot of pressure. They had a very good win against France for the first time in a long time. They’re coming in on the back of two wins. It is probably the first time they’ve been in this situation for a long time. They look like they’re in a decent position.”

“For us, things don’t change that much. We’ve got a way of approaching all these games . . .”

The game is given added intrigue by the presence of Joe Schmidt and Vern Cotter, long-time associates and Murphy maintains that the insider knowledge thus works both ways.

“He brings a toughness to them,” said Murphy of Cotter. “Their work in around the breakdown is fierce both when they have the ball and when they don’t. Their tacklers are reloading into that area. They’re fighting for everything. It will be a big test for us on how we look after our ball in that contact area in order to try and play quick. They’ll be trying to slow us down. We’ll obviously be trying to create that quick ruck ball that everyone wants and play off that.”

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