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Preview: Ireland v Scotland

09th March 2012 05:59

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Donnacha Ryan on a run for Ireland

Starter: Donnacha Ryan

A winless Scotland will be hoping for a repeat of 2010 when they run out at Aviva Stadium in Dublin to take on Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

It was two years ago when they stepped up to the plate to win 23-20 in their host's final Test at Croke Park. What they would give for déjà vu.

Dan Parks' late penalty ruined the farewell at Croker and while they will not be able to call upon his boot in 2012, they enter the clash unafraid.

"We'd not won going into that game, very much the underdogs, but we went and put on a brilliant performance against a very strong Irish team," Scotland centre Graeme Morrison, who lines up alongside Nick de Luca in the absence of injury victim Rory Lamont, recounted about the victory.

"That's what it's going to take this week as well. I've got full belief in the whole squad. I firmly believe they all do as well. It is just putting together all the pieces into one performance. I believe that if we do that then we'll turn them over. There's a pretty confident feeling in the squad."

We don't see why they can't do it again, even with a disappointing zero from three record.

Despite the absence of a few players, much is still the same from two years ago on the pitch for Andy Robinson as his side's form sees them possessing 0 points. The heat is subsequently mounting on the former England boss and in some respects it is unfair criticism as there have been many bright spots to note. David Denton and Ross Rennie have been superb so far while Stuart Hogg and Greig Laidlaw seem to have bright futures.

It is all about the here and now for Robinson though and his Scotland charges should be fresh following a break while the Irish find themselves depleted and possibly heavy-legged from their draw exploits at Stade de France. Injury accounts for the talismanic figures of Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell and that means a rare leadership role on the Test stage for Rory Best, with Mike McCarthy and Tomas O'Leary stepping in on the bench.

One injury-enforced promotion that will excite many, however, is the starting jersey being handed to lock Donnacha Ryan - some saying it is long overdue. Ryan has been hugely impressive for Munster in 2011/12 while provincial pal Peter O'Mahony also deserves a start, albeit in circumstances he might not have wanted following Sean O'Brien being a late exclusion for a game that while lacking in Six Nations importance, has a scent of 2015.

The seedings for those World Cup pool stages will be determined by the IRB rankings at the end of the year and Ireland have eight matches to ensure they finish inside the top eight and thus avoid the nightmare scenario of being drawn alongside two major nations.

It is a tough ask as a three-Test series in New Zealand awaits along with facing England at Twickenham and South Africa at the Aviva Stadium, something that Kidney is aware of.

"The championship's out of reach, but a huge amount is at stake at the end of November."

Ones to watch:

For Ireland: Some have been calling for the introduction of Peter O'Mahony, Eoin Reddan and Donnacha Ryan and they have their wish this weekend. The trio will be fresh-legged and looking to lay down a marker for permanent selection, with Reddan's task somewhat easier following that 'look away now' injury sustained to Connor Murray in Paris.

For Scotland: Greig Laidlaw is once again given the backing at fly-half and will need to combine with David Denton and Mike Blair to ensure Ireland get nothing easy in attack. He will also need to kick well as this is likely to be an arm-wrestle rather than an expansive one.

Head-to-head: One area that still remains a worry for Ireland is at tighthead where Mike Ross often comes of second best to opponents. This week he goes up against Allan Jacobsen while Ross Ford is also solid at scrum-time. If Scotland can apply the squeeze and pilfer a few points from the set-piece, then their hopes of repeating 2010 improve.

Recent results:

2011: Ireland won 21-18 at Murrayfield
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: Very close. Ireland by 6!

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Peter O'Mahony, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Mike McCarthy, 19 Shane Jennings, 20 Tomas O'Leary, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Fergus McFadden.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 David Denton, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Geoff Cross , 2 Ross Ford (c) 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Euan Murray, 18 Alastair Kellock, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Ruaridh Jackson, 22 Max Evans.

Date: Saturday, March 10
Kick-off: 17:00
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite, Greg Garner (England)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)

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