Two teams hurting from recent defeats collide on Sunday as Ireland travel to Scotland eager for revenge over what happened in 2010.
Two nations wounded from recent defeats collide on Sunday as Ireland travel to Scotland eager for revenge after what happened in March, 2010.
It was meant to be a happy farewell for Irish rugby at Croke Park as the curtain fell down on a memorable spell at the home of Gaelic Games. Unfortunately for those wearing green, that was not the case as a Dan Parks drop gave a sinking feeling that was in no way fitting to such a day.
That 23-20 victory was Scotland coach Andy Robinson's first win in the tournament yet he now finds himself still seeking a second after losses in their opening games this year, to France and Wales. Ireland have one win to their name, but actually improved in the loss to les Bleus, which has made Robinson wary of what lies ahead.
“We know they're a huge threat, the players are used to coming to Murrayfield and performing,” he said, speaking to Press Association Sport.
“The fact we won last year will have an added drive for them, but it's about the here and now and the performance.”
Midweek selections lean towards Scotland being the nation in the most bother for this one as they make seven changes. Out go Euan Murray, Nathan Hines and Richie Vernon, while half-backs Rory Lawson and Dan Parks, centre Joe Ansbro and full-back Hugo Southwell also miss out. Moray Low, Richie Gray, Johnnie Beattie, Mike Blair, Ruaridh Jackson, Chris Paterson and Sean Lamont all start, with Nick De Luca alongside the latter in midfield.
But it is at fly-half where the most kerfuffle has been made. Some are fans and some are not of Parks and this weekend the nay-sayers are a content bunch following Robinson's decision to bench the man who did for Ireland in 2010. In his place comes the precocious talent of Glasgow's Jackson, who'll be keen to fire.
Up against Jackson and wearing the other number ten was the equivalent story to dominate the back pages of the press, a return to a starting shirt of Ronan O'Gara. His inclusion to the side ahead of Jonathan Sexton becomes more clear by Declan Kidney stating that Ireland are too quiet at present and need to communicate more.
“We've got a lot of good guys playing for us but some of them are a little bit quiet in themselves,” said the head coach.
“It's always beneficial when guys talk on the pitch and we've been encouraging some fellas to speak up.
“It's an ongoing thing and the more confidence some guys have on the pitch, in terms of feeling good about themselves, the more they'll speak up.
“You want the outside guys to be the eyes of the guys on the inside, so you want everyone speaking up.”
There you have it. If the players are horse at the end of play then it may be Ireland's day at Murrayfield, if not then the growing unrest could lead to supporters turning on their coach.
Players to watch:
For Scotland: They're back. The 'Killer B's' are reunited as Johnnie Beattie returns after recovering from shoulder surgery. In truth Richie Vernon did well last time out but is forced to settle for a spot on the bench. However, team-mate's quotes during midweek reading along the lines of Beattie being a 'terrific player' says a lot about the man.
For Ireland: Hoards of Irish supporters on our comments section have been longing for Tomas O'Leary not to be in their line-up and this week they have their wish as the Munster scrum-half misses out due to injury. In his place comes Eoin Reddan, whose slick service might have been better alongside Leinster colleague Jonathan Sexton. Reddan will know that this is his big chance and a good effort here could see him nail down the jersey.
Head-to-head: It has to be doesn't it? Ruaridh Jackson up against Ronan O'Gara in the battle of the tens. Over one hundred caps separate these two but that might not count for much in Edinburgh as home field advantage will help the 23-year-old considerably. O'Gara must push the Irish in the right areas on the field while Jackson is a more creative ten so the term chalk and cheese can be attached. Will it be conservatism or youthful exuberance?
2010: Scotland won 23-20 at Croke Park
2009: Ireland won 22-15 at Murrayfield
2008: Ireland won 34-13 at Croke Park
2007: Scotland won 31-21 at Murrayfield
2007: Ireland won 19-18 at Croke Park
2006: Ireland won 15-9 at Lansdowne Road
2005: Ireland won 40-13 at Murrayfield
2004: Ireland won 37-16 at Lansdowne Road
2003: Ireland won 29-10 at Murrayfield
2003: Ireland won 36-6 at Murrayfield
2002: Ireland won 43-22 at Lansdowne Road
Prediction: Ireland by no more than 6! It will be a close one.
Scotland: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Nikki Walker, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Sean Lamont, 11 Max Evans, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alastair Kellock (capt), 4 Richie Gray, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Geoff Cross, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Dan Parks, 22 Simon Danielli.
Ireland: 15 Luke Fitzgerald, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (capt), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements:16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 Jonathan Sexton , 22 Paddy Wallace.
Date: Sunday, February 27
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Andrew Small (England), Pascal Gauzere (France)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)