Keith Wood expecting ‘big Ireland reaction’ against Scotland side who ‘peaked’ before the Rugby World Cup

Colin Newboult
Andy Farrell's side in a huddle during the 2024 Six Nations.

Andy Farrell's side in a huddle during the 2024 Six Nations.

Former Ireland hooker Keith Wood is expecting a backlash from Andy Farrell’s men as they seek to secure another title.

The Irishmen were shocked by England in their previous clash, ending their dreams of becoming the first side to win back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams.

They can still claim some silverware, however, when the Scots visit the Aviva Stadium on ‘Super Saturday’.

A losing bonus-point should be enough to finish in first but Ireland will want to end their campaign in style and Wood believes there will be a response to last weekend’s loss.

Lack of control

“I think there will be a big reaction from Ireland at the weekend because we were off the pace, we were lacklustre physicality-wise, and we never quite got any control on the game. That will hurt Ireland a lot,” he told Off The Ball.

The Ireland legend also questioned Scotland’s ability, having not been impressed by their performances since before the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

“I thought Scotland peaked against France in the World Cup warm-ups; they seemed to get all their timing wrong. Both games were about as good as it gets,” he said.

“By the time they got to the World Cup, they seemed to be a little bit flat and got seriously outmanoeuvred.”

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Scottish boss Gregor Townsend does have maverick fly-half Finn Russell at his disposal, though, who could have one of those days where everything comes off.

“If you can put Scotland under significant pressure all the time, Scotland should not be able to beat Ireland – I think there are better teams,” Wood added.

“But with Finn in there, he could have a day where he kick-passes three kicks to (Duhan) van der Merwe and scores under the posts; that’s 21 points. That is the potential of Scotland, if they don’t lose their way.”

Scotland opened the Six Nations positively, defeating Wales in Cardiff for the first time since 2002, but they missed a big chance to overcome France in the second round.

A fourth victory in a row over England got them back on track, but their reversal in Rome showed that they are still not quite ready to make that leap into the world’s elite.

However, Wood believes that Steve Borthwick’s team have provided a “template” from which the Scots can follow this weekend.

Odd kicking strategy

“I think they need to be a little bit more pragmatic; they need a plan B. They need to be able to kick for position,” he said.

“For whatever reason, Scotland have decided that just kicking down the field until somebody else makes a mistake is a good enough idea, but that isn’t appropriate either.

“They need to move Ireland as much as they can. We saw what England did to Ireland, which was to play at full tilt with simple lines.

“Yes, they ran from deep when Ireland kicked but it was the level of power and physicality that England brought to it – I couldn’t understand why Ireland were surprised by that.

“That was a glaring error from Ireland’s perspective but it’s also a template to say, actually if you do play that hard, that fast, that accurate, albeit simple, you can put Ireland under pressure, if Ireland don’t get to the pitch of the game.”

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