Six Nations miscellany: Ireland and Scotland renew old rivalry

Richie Gray set to miss Six Nations clash with a head injury; Ireland’s first Test victory

Richie Gray wins a lineout for Glasgow against Leinster in February. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Richie Gray wins a lineout for Glasgow against Leinster in February. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Head injuries rule out Richie Gray

Richie Gray, as expected, will not be part of the Scotland squad for Sunday’s Six Nations Championship match against Ireland at Murrayfield. The six foot, 10 inch secondrow and older brother of Jonny, picked up a concussion in Glasgow Warriors recent defeat to Leinster at the RDS. He wasn’t available for the Scottish club’s victory over Zebre in Italy at the weekend.

Gray had come on as a replacement in Scotland’s opening two Six Nations matches - their game against France was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak in their opponents’ camp - making an impact in the victory over England and the defeat to Wales.

Unfortunately Gray’s season has been severely curtailed by concussion issues dating back to last October when he picked up a head injury against the Ospreys and he didn’t play again until the first week in January. When he picked up the knock in the second half of the game against Leinster, Glasgow head coach Danny Wilson admitted: “The key with Richie is the history [of head injuries].

“With the history he’s got, and with missing a lot of rugby this season with concussion, we have to make sure player welfare is first and foremost and we are not putting someone with a concussion history at any sort of risk.”

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend’s decision not to include the 31-year-old in the squad is entirely sensible in the circumstances.

A trip down memory lane

Ireland’s first ever victory in an international match was against Scotland bringing to an end a six-year losing sequence since their first foray in Test rugby (1875). The game took place in Belfast’s Ormeau Road ground in February, 1881 and was a tight affair. The Scots scored a try with five minutes to go which looked like deciding the outcome but a drop goal from John C Bagot gave Ireland victory. In those days a drop goal was worth three points, an unconverted try, one.

It was Bagot’s - he was a former Trinity student and Lansdowne captain - last cap for Ireland. ‘Jakes’ McCarthy, a well known writer on Irish rugby at the time, waxed lyrical about the game’s seminal moment before concluding the eulogy with the words, “men, women, and children embraced each other indiscriminately.”

Number of the day

36 - The number of players that will travel with the Ireland squad to Edinburgh on Friday ahead of Sunday’s Six Nations game against Scotland.

Quote of the day

“No one goes out there and tries to give away penalties. Everyone is working hard but sometimes players just over-exert in certain areas.” England head coach Eddie Jones talking about his squad’s discipline issues in the Six Nations.

Keith Earls celebrates scoring a try against Scotland in December. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Keith Earls celebrates scoring a try against Scotland in December. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

On this day

March 9th, 1968 - It was the day that a Five Nations Championship match between Ireland and Wales at Lansdowne Road had to be stopped for five minutes and one on which English referee Mike Titcomb needed a Garda escort from the pitch at the final whistle despite a 9-6 victory for the home side.

The reason for the spectators’ ire was that Titcomb had awarded a drop goal that everyone, including Welsh scrumhalf Gareth Edwards whose kick it was, thought had drifted wide. It brought the visitors level at 6-6.

Bottles and fruit were thrown and it took a while before order was restored and the match could continue. Mick Doyle’s late try - he went on to coach Ireland to their 1985 Triple Crown and Five Nations Championship success - potentially prevented a riot according to popular opinion at the time. Titcomb, who was well liked and regarded by players, was mortified when the mistake was confirmed and apologised for his error.

Head-to-head

On the presumption that Sunday’s Six Nations Championship game between Scotland and Ireland produces a positive outcome the winner will edge in front in the head-to-head matches between the countries. Ireland drew level with a 31-16 victory in the recent Autumn Nations Cup game in December at the Aviva Stadium, a match in which Keith Earls grabbed a brace of tries.

That was the 138th meeting between the teams, each country having won 66 matches each with five draws and one abandoned. Three of the draws were 0-0 (1893, 1896, 1900), while the teams could not be separated in 1979 (11-11) and 1994 (6-6). The abandoned game took place at the Ormeau Ground in Belfast (1885), when the pitch became waterlogged during a storm.

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