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How will Scotland cope with the streetwise Irish?

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John Beattie | 17:16 UK time, Sunday, 4 March 2012

This weekend it's the trip to Dublin. And I reckon the Irish are the most streetwise team in the Six Nations.

Things to look forward to? Well, having just watched the Irish play France, among the treats in store is a back division that'll be in Scotland's back division before the lineout is over, a bunch of players who will target the ball in the tackle, an Irish captain who likes engaging the referee in wit and repartee, and two pints of beer for just under £100.

Let's start with the tackle or, as it's known, the Irish choke tackle.

Now, there are lots of different defensive systems in the world, but the Irish have slowly stolen a technique from the world of sevens rugby, where most countries now use it: hold a man up long enough, keep the ball off the ground, and the defending Irish get the ball as the attacker can't offload and can't present the ball on the ground.

Ireland's Stephen Ferris tackles Imanol Harinordoquy of France during Sunday's RBS Six Nations match in Paris. Photo: Getty

Ireland's Stephen Ferris tackles Imanol Harinordoquy of France during Sunday's RBS Six Nations match in Paris. Photo: Getty

Basically, the ball is targeted in the tackle and the man in possession is held up on his feet for as long as possible.

All that I like, as it's very clever. It's not pretty but it means that if the maul they have created falls down, there are plenty of Irishmen in the way, should the attacking team try to turn it into a ruck.

And why roll away or release the ball if that would make it easier for the attacker? In fact, there is a real effort to get under the ball as it heads to the ground.

Anyway, it means that more and more of Ireland's opponents have to deal with slow ball and bodies in green jerseys between them and the ball.

How Scotland cope with all this is a challenge.

I suspect they might take a leaf out of John Barclay's book as when he goes into contact he does so at such a low height as to render that form of defence impotent.

My guess is that the Scots will try to drive into contact as low as they can and go as far as they can. And have a quiet wee word with the ref too.

The second element Scotland will have to contend with is the rapidly advancing defensive line.

It's organised, at least organised enough for Tommy Bowe to grab an interception, and when the French tried to play deep, as they did in the first half, Ireland picked them off out wide.

Just looking at some of the French lineouts, I do have a suspicion that the Irish back division is flying up before the lineout is over - which should be when it leaves the mark it was at if there's a maul or when the ball leaves the lineout.

Anyway, as yet I don't know the Scotland selection but I think Jon Welsh is ready for a call-up to give the scrum - which, let's be honest, has creaked - an air of solidity.

My guess is it'll be a hard day for Scotland: the Irish are, should we say, streetwise and that gives them an advantage.

That is tough, because Scotland need a win. How do you think it will go?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I agree John. I think we need strong ref and a bit of luck with the decisions for a change. The pack needs something new and after watching Ospreys v Glasgow where our forwards dominated, Welsh may just be the answer.

  • Comment number 2.

    Surely a wee dink over the top would cause chaos to any backline flying up like that... Has there been any news on Laidlaw's suspected 'concussion'?

    I think Ireland were a bit lucky to come away with the draw today, 9 times out of 10 the referee would of sent Healy to the sin bin... Once the French got their heads right after half time Ireland struggled.

    I think Ireland will win next week but it'll be a close game. If we can keep cutting out the errors and sort out the scrum we've got a good chance.

    Hope that Connor Murray's alright, he looked in quite a lot of pain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hogg
    Slamont
    Ansbro
    Scott
    Evans
    Weir
    Lawson

    Chunk
    Ford
    Murray
    Hamilton
    Gray
    Barclay
    Rennie
    Denton

    Welsh, Slawson, Ryder, Harley, Blair, Laidlaw, Jones

    That's what i'd do.

    For the record, I actually think that we have decent players, but they are not being utilised correctly. I get the impression that the media feel that we have poor players, but an excellent coach.

    If we get the wooden spoon, I can see the players getting all the blame, and Robinson getting none. I find this perplexing, but then again we are talking about Scottish rugby, in which logic and critical thought are consistently absent.

  • Comment number 4.

    Streetwise Irish eh, give us paddys a break, sure unless I am very much mistaken haven't Scotland been playing 'offside' rugby for decades. Kettle calling the pot black me thinks in this post.

  • Comment number 5.

    John, you and all the other Scots who travel will be very welcome here next weekend.

    I think, though, your tongue must be firmly in your mouth when you mention the Irish being offside at lineouts. Scottish sides have been permanently offside since before the Crimean War.

  • Comment number 6.

    @5, completely agree. Bit hypocritical.

    As much as Scotland have improved, it would still be a horrendous result if Ireland lost. I think they have a bit more quality in key areas and finish chances a lot better.

  • Comment number 7.

    Irish backs over the past two /three years have perfected the quick movement before the lineout is over.
    If you don't believe that ask an Irish international back next time you see one ( as I have) and one to one they will hold their hand up and tell you it is PRACTISED regularly.
    They are just playing the percentages until they come up against a referee with the bottle to pick it up

  • Comment number 8.

    If we don’t get quick ball it doesn’t matter who we pick we’ll be knackered.

    Key focus has to finding cute methods of getting across the game line generating momentum and negating the impact of the Irish team at the breakdown and their fast moving defensive line from set-piece. Second focus area, as John mentioned, is getting our body height spot on or it will be held-up balltastic with Morrison. Last thing is we need to really attack rucks early when the defending players aren’t set properly and wiping out way beyond the ball with a quick clear.
    Quick ball wins game, simples!

    Team wise:
    Hogg, Jones, Ansbro( more likely to be NDL with Morrison at 12), NDL, Lamont, Weir, Blair, Same pack at as last game with Welsh on the bench.

  • Comment number 9.

    I hope more than anything else that AR refrains from making the pre ordained 60 minute changes this weekend.

    If the teams going well, keep them going. Most players are fit enough to play a full 80 if required. We lose so much rhythm and momentum when we bring on so many players at once.

    15) Hogg
    14) Lee Jones
    13) Slamont
    12) Matt Scott
    11) Joe Ansbro
    10) Greig Laidlaw
    9) Mike Blair

    8) DD
    7) RR
    6) J Barclay
    5) Jim Hamilton
    4) Richie Gray
    3) Euan Murray (if not I'd be keen to try John Welsh - He's excelling a 3 for Ggow)
    2) Ross Ford
    1) A Jacobson

    16) John Welsh
    17) Slawson (Pat M pushing)
    18) Al K
    19) Richie V (John Beattie if fit adds far more though)
    20) Chris C
    21) Duncan Weir
    22) Max Evans

    At 13, Slamont would be playing against Keith Earls who's known to be a poor defender.
    At 12, Matt Scott is the 2nd 5/8 we require, as well as being pretty large.
    Barclay/Rennie/Denton worked well. Denton free to carry and hit all day.
    Ansbro/Jones/Hogg. 3 out and out fliers who are real pace men.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think Ireland should win, but the six day turnaround could take its toll and gives Scotland a massive advantage in the second half.

  • Comment number 11.

    I've always thought that the Irish back row were an awesome unit and have questioned people who say that they are unbalanced as O'Brien is a 6 playing at 7, well today is the first time that i've ever really noticed that. i thought that the Irish back-row were fairly anonymous today and maybe that's something we could exploit with our own back-row.

    A definite area of weakness for the Irish appears to be their line-out and i'm sure Gray and Hamilton can give them a real hard time.

    Without O'Driscoll the Irish centres are not the same threat, that said neither are ours really and Bowe is devastating on the wing right now. Please,please,please let's not kick high balls to Rob Kearney.

    Think you're right John - Welsh could make a difference to our front row and a trio of Welsh,Ford and Murray with Gray and Hamilton behind is a fearsome weight advantage in the scrum at least.

  • Comment number 12.

    I hope the injuries from the France game have cleared up, don't think Ansbro is back from injury and Max might be "unavailable" so I think it's time to give Matt Scott a run at 12. Doubt that Robinson will though, he'll stick with Morrison especially if he feels that he can compensate for Laidlaws defensive frailties.

    I wouldn't pick Murray - it is simply unacceptable in this professional era to put religion ahead of his job and shows little respect for the Scottish rugby fan. I'd rather we persisted with weaker props than give Murray a game but just as before Robinson will pick him.

    We have to play Blair and Laidlaw if available, they are the heartbeat of the team (although some don't seem to realise this). It's also time to drop Cusiter from the squad he is so off form it's simply not fair to pick him and it harms our chances of a win.

    Lets not worry about Ireland too much and see if we can impose our game plan, for the first time in a while I think we have the players to do just that.

  • Comment number 13.

    Broontroot, i really don't think we can afford to play Laidlaw at 10. His defensive work is just not of international standard and to play an "enforcer" like Morrison outside him to babysit almost loses you as much attacking impetus as it gains.

    I believe it's time to play Weir who is a very good tackler at 10 and then we'd have the luxury of being able to play the likes of Grove or Scott at 12.

  • Comment number 14.

    As a Welsh supporter I hope Scotland get the win that they need. Both the team and Andy Robinson have an integrity that deserves some reward, and I feel for the forwards who have at times been magnificent.
    As an aside John, I too was born in Kuching in 1957 and I believe our parents knew each other. Have you ever been back??

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm really looking forward to the game. Scotland are playing some great rugby without getting the breaks. They should've beaten England, they could've beaten France.

    Ireland must be disappointed after this weekend and have a short turnaround, which isn't always a bad thing. They are dangerous in all areas, but I agree that their Lineout is the weakness, and Scotland have the best Men to exploit this.

    As much as I love watching the Irish at the mo', I'd love to see a Scotland victory.

  • Comment number 16.

    There's something unpleasantly cynical about the way Ireland approach rugby. They may not be alone in what they do, but it is the way they do it, such as their prop appearing in the French back line yesterday, that sticks in the craw. It is up to the referee to see why a ball is being slowed down from every ruck and, if it is because there are Irish hands on the ball or a player is slow to remove himself from the tackle, then a yellow card will discourage them. Scotland must match them in playing the ref, but, more importantly, every opportunity to use quick ball must be taken. Both Blair and Laidlaw can do this, but it seems to be beyond Cusiter at present.

    If Murray is chosen as prop, he must make his presence felt in the loose, but I'm not sure his presence is warranted, as scrummaging is not an Irish strength and Murray's last outing wasn't impressive.

    As far as the back line is concerned, why anyone would call for Ansbro's inclusion is a mystery. He hasn't been playing for his club, so why should he be selected for international duty? De Luca has earned his place in the starting XV and should be given it, even if Evans is available. S Lamont is not a centre and should not be selected to play there.

    Welsh seems to be highly thought of and scored another try at the weekend, so maybe he deserves a place on the bench. I don't know if I 'd be inclined to throw him straight into the starting XV, but our scrum is a bit of a concern. Technique seems to be lacking, which is a bit strange, as it doesn't seem to be at club level.

    I suspect continuity might be the best tactic, so would limit any changes to those made necessary by injury. That means no Murray at prop and leaving Lamont on the wing.

  • Comment number 17.

    This is possibly the match to experiment a wee bit a 9/10, especially if Blair hasn't recovered from the France match. Cusiter has been misfiring a wee bit, so get Laidlaw in at 9 and play Weir at 10.

    Someone needs to show whoever plays tighthead a video of Adam Jones destroying Cian Healy in the RWC match. Up until then Healy was my pick for loosehead of the tournament, and he got tacken to school by Jones.
    If we can disrupt the Irish scrum it'll keep a steady flow of penalties which will keep the game in their half.

    As for dealing with the choke tackle, we need the captain to step up (quite literally) and stick boots on the Irish that aren't rolling away.
    We might give away a pen or two for use of the feet, but it'll draw the refs attention to the fact that the Irish never roll away. How they continue to get away with it I'll never know!
    Just because the ball isn't grounded doesn't mean it's not a tackle. If the man with the ball can get a knee on the ground they need to get off him!

    Fingers crossed this is where we turn the good performances into a result!

  • Comment number 18.

    Ireland back defense only looked really quick when France were going right to left. This may have been more to do with the quality of Para's passing off his right hand. For the intercept he turned round and passed off the left hand not something you can afford to do in international rugby. If Blair is fit he should play or Lawson, Cusoter is dithering too much and we saw the consequence of this on Saterday.

  • Comment number 19.

    Here's how it'll go against the Irish: We'll really get into them for 20 minutes and maybe grab a couple of points. Gradually, our scrum will be pushed back, and the lineout will falter. Ireland will score a try just before half time. After the break, we will be on the back foot, give away penalties, start to panic, throw the ball around, drop it a few times, maybe give the odd interception and fall behind on the scoreboard by at least 10 points. On the 60 minute mark, Robinson will make his pre-planned replacements and then it really will go belly up!
    Seen it all before, every game for 10 years.
    We are the "Woulda, shoulda team" comprising of "nearly" men (we nearly won, we nearly scored a try etc etc).
    I just can't see how Saturday will be any different-why should it be?

  • Comment number 20.

    Speaking as a neutral, I think from displays shown so far that the Irish have the upper hand in overall performance; however Scotland are consistently improving and have 'nothing to lose' and are by no means a pushover. I foresee a tight game with Ireland pulling away in the last 20 mins IF they keep their heads. As a Welshman I normally support either of these Celtic sides when they're playing, but this time I will be hoping Scotland win, purely to reward their dogged hard work, so far unrewarded - here's to a solid performance by both sides. Good luck both!!

  • Comment number 21.

    I wouldn't change too much from the French game beyond the enforced injuries or other reasons for and absense. We played very well against the French and other than the scrum held up well against them in most areas. The Irish scrum came under a lot of pressure yesterday as well and didn't exactly look like the greatest against the French. However, if any changes were to be made in the front row I would look at replacing Chunk in the front row first. He has been giving away far to many penalties recently which is something we could do without in Dublin and also his handling has been poor for some time in the loose, we also need to start trying someone out to be his eventual replacement given he only probably has another season or two left in him.

    Our backrow need to be on the ball again to try and get to the breakdown early and force those penalties. The Irish penalty count yesterday was horrendous on balance to the French. Healy was very lucky not to go into the bin for the lazy running offense (a personal gripe of mine as refs ignore it far to often by all sides).

    We need to play the same uptempo style as we did in the first 20 minutes of the French game and hopefully Blair will be ok to lead this. Sniping runs round the fringes and some clever chips/grubbers could keep that defensive line from flying up quite as quickly. Should Blair not be back in time then I'd look to Lawson or Laidlaw before Cuisiter at the moment as he's just not injecting the pace into the backline that we currently need.

    Think the backline might line up like this (injuries allowing)

    9/ Blair
    10/ Laidlaw
    11/ Jones
    12/ Morrison
    13/ NDL
    14/ S Lamont
    15/ Hogg

  • Comment number 22.

    Scotland play a much wider game than the French and mix it up a bit more as well now.

    On yesterday's showing apart from an intercept and one move that relied on luck more than skill Ireland weren't really a threat to the French. They gave away far too many penalties at crucial moments and were lucky to keep 15 players on the field for the full 80 minutes.

    I think that Scotland have real chance to register their first win of this competition on Saturday.

    A referee that has read the laws of the game recently would be a real help - 3 French mauls were 'truck and trailer' and the ref never pulled them up for it. Pearson missed/ignored a lot of other stuff as well but the maul is so easy to spot I'm surprised he let it go.

  • Comment number 23.

    Scotland should put out a 2nd XV and save their first choice side for their "big game" of the season - against Italy.

  • Comment number 24.

    #18 "Ireland back defense only looked really quick when France were going right to left"

    I think it was a deliberate tactic - it may be that Parra's pass is slightly slower that way, another possibility is that the French back line are all right footed (guessing, not looked it up) and it is more difficult to dink a kick over top or a grubber through with right foot is play is going left in any case.

    Scottish back row have to play another great game because as a unit they are quicker than Irish back row. Critical is to stop any Irish go forward as they come round the corner from lineouts and breakdowns.

    Looking forward to some great personal clashes - POC v Grey, Heaslip v Denton are the two obvious and are real clues to Lions places. Ford v Best is another

  • Comment number 25.

    John, one thing you have neglected to mention is what side of the scrum you see John Welsh playing. Chunk needs back up, yet recently Welsh has been playing TH for the Warriors. I'd like to see him in at 1. Think he could give Mike Ross a really hard time.
    Also would like to see the Blair/Laidlaw combo from the start once more. Think AR blew it with his selection of 9/10 against England. Noticeable that when they came on in the first match the tempo went up and Scotland improved. Similarly momentum was lost in the second match when they got their injuries. If Ireland want to charge up at the lineout with two sharp players like Blair and Laidlaw then let them and as Bill McLaren would have said the prairie has opened out in front of them, plenty of space in behind to exploit.
    Thought Sir Bill Gammell's piece this weekend was very good and as he said Scotland could be just one win away from being a good side. All they have to do is believe.

  • Comment number 26.

    22 Philip

    Got to agree with you. I thought that Pearson was terrible and carried on in his "ooohhh...vicious spear tackle off the ball...better go to the bin for a few minutes" vein!

    He missed the blatant truck and trailer stuff. He missed many, many hands in the ruck and he was astonishingly lenient towards Irelands "lazy prop" incidents. He also ignored the astonishing degree of crossing and out-and-out obstruction by both teams.

    Once again the enormous discrepancy in the interpretation of the Laws at international level leaves the viewer perplexed.

    Scottish fans should keep the faith. The team isn't doing much wrong other than mucking up a few scoring passes and suffering from plain old bad luck. For instance Tommy Bowes second try yesterday was a beauty but his chip ahead was poor and it almost defies physics as to how it bounced infield. It was pure good fortune. Scotland have been lacking that in spades but the wheel must turn soon!

  • Comment number 27.

    Agree with #25 on Welsh at loose head.

    I would like to see Laidlaw or Matt Scott (although he wont be chosen) keeping the Irish umbrella rush honest with a few grubbers and dinks over the top - to be employed off first phase line out attack.

  • Comment number 28.

    More of the same like the last time we played over in Ireland!! Scotland have a great chance of finally gaining the win their play has deserved and 2 on the bounce in Ireland! Come on boys!

  • Comment number 29.

    Sorry John, but it'll be the same old, same old. I can pick the team already!!!! and it'll be the same team and players that can't scrimmage, can't pass a ball and are no way near international class, not even in their dreams would they be. I can easily pick 5/6 players from Friday night’s game in Wales that should be playing but won't be, because their faces don't fit.

    French team didn't even leave first gear at the last outing to beat this Scotland team and it had nothing to do with the ref!!!!!!

    Park's said enough is enough, I think it's time some other players did as well.

  • Comment number 30.

    #29 - spot on really.

    #26 -
    "The team isn't doing much wrong other than mucking up a few scoring passes..."

    Much? That's everything. Passing the ball to another man so he can score is what the game's all about.

    Scotland lack the basics. They're rubbish.

  • Comment number 31.

    12 broontroot

    Murray has the courage of his convictions just like Eric Liddell, he should be respected and obviously is by his team and coach. As an atheist I can only admire him, Liddell believed that his sporting strength came from god, and our front row needs all the help it can get.

    Still think that it should be Laidlaw at 9 Weir 10, giving two kicking options, Laidlaw is a great footballer but not an international 10. Kellock looked up for it on Friday, and I think he should be in just ahead of Hamilton.

  • Comment number 32.

    Ireland are becoming a very limted side. The front row is average at best (though Healy will be one of the worlds best: only 24!), Donnaha O'Callahan is way past his best, POC although still a good player is no longer imperious, Heaslip and Ferris excellent but OBrien risks being found out as a one trick pony.

    Behind the pack they have very little, Sexton is good but the two centres are just average and Trimble is a club player. Kearney is a class act while Tommy Bowe will score tries.

    No O'Driscoll no class in midfield. Sadly despite all this... I still expect them to beat Scotland

  • Comment number 33.

    namastebuzz - not according to the World player of the year we're not.

    i believe you are a WUM - your posting history shows that you only post on Scottish blogs to slag the team off, how very mature of you.


    Other than a creaky front row and very average centre pairing we're a good side, we're not alone in the 6N for this either.

  • Comment number 34.

    #31 xcoach - I wouldn't change any of the back five they've been possibly the best thing about our campaign so far this year. Hamilton is to my mind playing his best rugby at the moment offering a good ball carrying option in the loose and looking a lot more mobile than previous years. Our lineout isn't suffering, in fact it's arguably the best in the tournament so far and to remove Hamilton for Kellock could weaken the scrum even further than it already is.

    I agree with the majority on here though that we need to get the props sorted out though, as we can't afford to give away penalties in this game like we did against the French. Wether that's introducing Welsh, bringing in Murray or just some old fashioned scrummaging practice for the guys that played last week I don't know but hope AR manages to get it right

  • Comment number 35.

    So much time is spent examining the opposition before the game but there are so many variables during a match - injuries, sendings off and particularly refereeing vagaries. I'm convinced Scotland need to make a better job of reading the opposition and exploiting opportunities during the game. First and foremost we need to concentrate on our own gameplan and execute it. Let them look at us and work us out if they want to. Ireland are stronger but need to watch they don’t have an off-day against Scotland, and they’ve had more than a few under DK. As a Scotland fan I’m actually happier that we’re developing a team and making strides, wonder if Irish fans feel the same about theirs?

  • Comment number 36.

    34 I agree that 4 to 8 has been our best unit, but I think Kellock has his hunger back and is more of a leader than Hamilton, who was off the pace between the set pieces against Wales. take your point about the scrum possibly being weaker, but not the lineout.

  • Comment number 37.

    Scotland has improved in every game in this Six Nations and there's no reason why they can't carry on improving enough to beat Ireland. I would play Welsh at loosehead, Weir at stand off and Evans at centre, if fit. Greig Laidlaw will, I think, be a worthy successor to Blair at scrum half and should be on the bench to cover that position.
    The way to deal with the 'choke' tackle is to drive in low, with support at the breakdown (something that's still sadly lacking in our play), to clear the tacklers out. We must also support our runners in attack, again something lacking in recent matches.
    My team:

    Hogg, Jones, Evans (De Luca), Morrison, S Lamont, Weir, Blair, Welsh, Ford, Cross, Gray, Hamilton, Barclay, Rennie, Denton..............Murray, S Lawson, Kellock, Vernon, Laidlaw, Jackson, Ansbro (if not fit Scott)/(De Luca)

  • Comment number 38.

    The following players were called up to the Scotland training squad today, Robert Harley, Jackson, John Welsh, Matt Scott and big Ewan Murray (source the Scottish Rugby Blog). Blair, Laidlaw and Barclay all picked up injuries - dead legs I think - in the France game.

    With Welsh having played his last three games for Glasgow Warriors at tight head he brings a versatility to the bench for the front row that perhaps we've been lacking.

    As far as how we should play, you would think that Robinson and his team will have watched the Irish Pro 12 teams performances, particularly Leinster and spoken to the Glasgow and Edinburgh players about how they have tried to deal with the choke tackle.

    Ansbro did not play for London Irish at the weekend, so even if he has recovered from his injury you'd have to question if his is 'match fit'.

    I like Laidlaw - he's got good vision and a good rugby brain. However, he's a weak defensive link, and if players are drawn out of position to help cover his channel then that makes space elsewhere for others to attack. It's time to give Weir a go - who has also shown he's got the eye for a break, yet is arguably defensively stronger. The fact he's played the Irish guys in the Magners and Pro 12 should reduce the nevers and take away any fear factor.

    Will Matt Scott start? De Luca was good against France, so I would stick with him at 13 and Morrison at 12, and keep Lamont on the wing.

    The Irish will be missing Paul O'Connell who has done some damage to his knee ligaments. Is Devin Toner part of the squad? He came on in the second half of Glasgow v Leinster the other week and vastly improved there line out. He was also surprisingly hard to put to ground for a big skinny due. They will also be missing Murray at scrum half, but thankfully his injury is not as serious as it firsts looked on TV.

    Some have suggested that Kellock should start, but I'd stick with Hamilton and Gray. I've been critical of Hamilton in the past as he had all the speed and agility of an oil tanker. But he seems to have shed a couple of pound, got fitter, and is now more mobile around the park.

  • Comment number 39.

    Streetwise Irish? Did you see how many penalties they gave away against France? Most of them totally unnecessary, and many resulted in either the loss of a promising attacking opportunity, or gave the French a chance to kick for points in a stage of the match where they were being dominated.

  • Comment number 40.

    John

    The Irish are sure streetwise, but that means they study the ref and play as they are allowed to get away with. There's no problem with that - it shows their intelligence, and we should be smart enough to see stuff like that and do it ourselves - and sort them out if they do overstep the mark! By all means have dialogue with the ref, but make it obvious what the offence is. Mike Phillips is a master at getting penalties in these situations, so study the video.

    What I most admire about them (and Wales actually) is their composure in attacking positions. No panic, no throwing out stupid ball when the move has stalled, just stop, retain, recycle, and go again.

    We have played well in spells this year, and with some good young players coming in we have the nucleus of a good side for the next few years. We must front up in the pack and keep a cool head and patience and we can certainly win in Dublin. I do like Laidlaw for that reason, always looking for runners but ready to change the plan if it's not on. I was impressed with Welsh against Ospreys and wouldn't mind giving him a go at some stage, but Murray should start (although I don't think he should be in the squad. I respect his views completely but that does not merit him taking up a place in the pool when he won't play on a Sunday).

  • Comment number 41.

    #33

    Actually, I post on plenty of blogs/sites.

    I'm usually slagging off my own team (England) a lot more than the Jocks. In fact England have scored fewer tries than Scotland this year which shows how bad they are.

    5 wins in their last 28 6N games would support my assertion that Scotland are rubbish.

    Some decent players but a limited pool to select from and a head coach who has a proven record of being unable to select a proper side and play the correct tactics.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    Some posters are saying that "We are making strides forward" with this team. Delusional thinking. Look at the points total we have thus far........

  • Comment number 44.

    forgot to mention Grove - scored a well taken try last weekend. If ansbro injured, maybe something like this in the backs...

    Hogg
    Slamont
    Grove
    Scott
    Evans
    Weir
    Lawson

    subs: laidlaw, blair/de luca, jones

  • Comment number 45.

    Irrespective of who Scotland supporters prefer at any given position, no combination of what's available is good enough to beat Ireland in Dublin. There quite simply isn't the strength in depth to cope with an 80 minute game. Yes, there are a number of forwards (4-8) who will give everything to the cause but the others don't cut it and the professional era sees Scotland gradually falling further behind their 6-nations rivals, with the exception of Italy.

    Unless there is some freakish improvement in basic handling going forward, break away support play and in general body strength (another slaughter in the scrum is likely) then a 10 to 15 points loss will be a predictable result.

  • Comment number 46.

    #44 forget Grove's his face doesn't fit and never will!!!!! Last cap was three years ago says everything!!!!!

  • Comment number 47.

    Well Max Evans at least is now past his difficulties off the field so he should be available for selection and his head should be in the right place as well not having to worry about anything. Ansbro hasn't played in a number of weeks now so think it's unlikely he will factor in just due to lacking match fitness over anything else. Does anyone know one Laidlaw's progress regarding his concussion, if he'll be passed fit to play or not?

    #45. feefferish - Is that why we were able to beat Ireland in Dublin 2 years ago? We've probably got a more talented side/squad now than we had where Ireland you could argue are now weaker (Missing BOD & POC is a huge blow). Fact is that if any team has an off day in the 6 Nations any other side in the tournament can beat them it's the beauty of the tournament.

    Ireland start as favourites no doubt but it's not beyond reckoning that Scotland can pull off a win.

  • Comment number 48.

    "the Irish are, should we say, streetwise and that gives them an advantage"

    John John John...I sense a bit of resentment towards the Irish in your blog there and to say that being "streetwise" gives them the advantage is a little bit misleading...I think what gives Ireland the advantage is that they are a far superior side then Scotland in every aspect of the game. If we are being honest here Scotland will probably put up a good fight for 30 minutes and then I expect Ireland to run away with an easy victory. Scotland still dont know how to win and I cant even see them beating Italy. Sorry but its true...and on Saturday you might just agree with me.

  • Comment number 49.

    Not often I agree with you ,but you could be right although "they're always against us " syndrome has to be avoided.For the life of me I ca'nt understand how the Irish backs were not offside on the French line out in Sunday's game. Healy should have been sin binned at least for his cynical take out on Clerc.(Not wishing to be paranoid but 2 Scots were yellow carded in Cardiff for just that and a lot less cynical) On Murray I respect his views ,but some games are now on Sunday and sometimes you have to suffer for your beliefs.Good as Laidlaw ,is he not a bit small for the modern game (much as I abhor the size of current players) and did not Trinh-Duc walk through him for the try? The other point I would make,this season the points difference in games is very small (outwith the Italian games)and it only takes marginal effort to win.Dublin will be tough but if progress is made thenI will be happy ,although I would prefer an ugly win.Go for it lads !

  • Comment number 50.

    What happened to everyones optimism before the France game? I know the scrum was shambolic but I thought we played really well. I think chunk is on his way down and he knows it. He's carrying a lot of fat around his belly and is lashing out at the opposition, lucky not to be sin binned a couple of times and giving away too many penalties. Although Murray had a massive dip in form recently I think he's getting back to something resembling his best. The Sunday thing doesn't bother me. If God gives him strength by not playing on a Sunday I'll take that, we need his form of a few years ago.

    Don't mess with the 4 to 8, it's working, although we need to clear out the rucks a lot better. Kellock might bring leadership to the pack but his ball carrying and general handling is similar to that of a donkey. He seems a really nice guy but not quite good enough.

    The backs are so much improved in the absence of Parks it's scary and you really need to wonder what AR was thinking. Scott and NDL in the centre, Lamont, Hogg and Evens (if fit) back three. Weir at 10 with Laidlaw in the wings as an impact player. Hopefully Blair will be fit and keep him on to the end unless he tails off, don't just sub him cos it seems like a good plan on the Friday night.

    Namastebuzz, you are a wum, either that or you're lacking attention at home and want some here. This team has got the players and it is starting to click. We are doing something right to have the posession, territory, turnover, etc stats in our favour in the games of late. There is something missing and I think it's from above.

    If AR can't get the players in the right midset to win a game it's his fault. I reckon he should go if we lose against Ireland and Italy. The main reasons we didn't look like scoring tries in the backs was Parks. He had a good boot for territory but what use was it when he couldn't produce anything in the oppostion 22? Why is AR allowing his forwards to be bossed in the loose? If we can sort out the rucks we will beat Ireland, especially since O'Connell is crocked.

  • Comment number 51.

  • Comment number 52.

    People are being overly harsh on the Scottish scrum, the only reason the French destroyed our scrum was the French loose head pulling down Geoff Cross' shirt we could all see on the camera because it was pulled down to the floor and ref was just watching and not blowing up the rule he should've applied was:

    20.3 (c) Binding by loose head props. A loose head prop must bind on the opposing tight head prop by placing the left arm inside the right arm of the tight head and gripping the tight head prop’s jersey on the back or side. The loose head prop must not grip the chest, arm, sleeve or collar of the opposition tight head prop. The loose head prop must not exert any downward pressure.
    Sanction: Penalty kick

    The real question is why the Scottish captain or Geoff Cross did not bring it to his attention.

    Possibly there is too much integrity on the Scottish team to consistently harass the referee over decision but this is what is counting against us at the moment.

  • Comment number 53.

    Predictions this weekend.

    Wales by 20+
    France by 1 score
    Ireland by 10+

  • Comment number 54.

    I think Scotland could sneak it this weekend, purely on the basis they are due on the law of averages a famous win, Ireland will still be feeling the effects of last Sunday and a few key injuries to the scurm half and O'Connell, should work to Scotland's favour. If all other things were equal I would usualy go for an Ireland win, but events have transpired in Scotland's favour and frankly Scotland are not half as bad a team as everyone would have us believe.

  • Comment number 55.

    More of the same old rubbish from JB. I can only assume you deliberately try to stir up a bit of controversy on here.

    More often than not the Irish seem to be on the wrong end of major decisions rather than getting the benefit of the doubt from a friendly ref...or maybe that's only when they play Wales.

  • Comment number 56.

    Its only natural to want to believe Scotland can win this weekend but teams dont become good teams over night nor do they become bad ones. Scotland will do what they did against the other teams and put up a good fight and then at the end blame the ref. I dont think even with Ireland missing oconnell, odriscoll and murray that it will make a difference. Ireland have scores trys in every game since 2008 and they will put at least 2 trys past Scotland...and I cant see Scotland putting even 1 past Ireland.

  • Comment number 57.

    Expecting significant changes from the starting fifteen against France is delusional. It's not Andy Robinson's style. Murray will be back, but the chances of that shoring up an utterly defective scrum are zero. Morrison and NDL will undoubtedly start in the centre, Blair will start at 9, if fit, wings, I think, will be Jones and S Lamont.

    The big problem now is one of belief. Some of these players have never experienced victory in a Scotland jersey. Defeat may be painful, but it holds no significant dread. Robinson carries some of the responsibility for this because of all the "positives" he manages to find after every game. A player who performs well has no prospect of being dropped from a losing team. One who performs badly is only at risk if there is a realistic alternative, and then only if he's been really, really bad.

    Ireland start every game expecting to win. Scotland start every game wondering if victory is possible.

    A wooden spoon decider awaits in Rome, again, and I'm not optimistic that this year we can avoid it.

  • Comment number 58.

    #52 a good front row player should know how to handle it and counter it, if the ref doesn't. Don't blame the ref for Cross' failings!!!!! The ref let Jacobson away with murder and should have been sin-binned at least twice.

    #54 Scotland win!!!! Aye if they cut out the nonsence of the last three games, which isn't going to happen.

  • Comment number 59.

    Good Blog John,

    I was wondering if it was time to get a bit more youth in the centre. WE seem to be bringing in young wings, fullbacks, forwards but none in the center which is our real weakness.

    What do you feel players like Matt Scott, Alex Grove and Alex Dunbar have to do to get a look in.

    I really feel its time to get some new players blooded at centre but AR seems intent on sticking with the same tried, tested and failed partnerships we have seen in the past.

  • Comment number 60.

    Hi John .. I think you have cunningly used the phrase 'streetwise' to cover a multitude of sins with which the Irish have hoodwinked referees in particular .. in particular I admire the way they drive through in broken play when it is 50:50 ball and then stand there trying to look innocent with arms semi-aloft, not doing too much to be penalised but enough to slow down the ball, impede the scrumhalf or just generally making a bloody nuisance of themselves ... hopefully some referees will read this and start penalising them .. until then, the best of luck to them.

    Llareggub

  • Comment number 61.

    Ireland with home advantage should beat Scotland.
    France v England is a tough call...I think home advantage will give France the edge.
    Wales should really put a score on Italy as long as they dont get up to their usual tricks of spear tackles and using the wrong ball. I think too much "cheating" has been brought into the Welsh game...its as if they will do anything to win. Hopefully the refs wont let them away with it...the refs need to be more like Alain Rolland and enforce the law.

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    The team has been announced.

    1. Chunk
    2. Ford (captain)
    3. Cross
    4. Gray
    5. Hamilton
    6. Barclay
    7. Rennie
    8. Denton
    9. Blair
    10. Laidlaw
    11. Lamont
    12. Morrison
    13. NdL
    14. Jones
    15. Hogg

    Subs: S. Lawson; Murray; Kellock; Vernon; Cusiter; Jackson & Evans.

  • Comment number 64.

    So a total of, er, no selection changes from the team beaten by France, with the exception of the enforced change at wing, NDL coming in at centre. AR certainly can't be accused of being radical.

    Ireland by 10+ looks a bit optimistic from a Scottish perspective.

    At least Rome should be nice and sunny.

  • Comment number 65.

    #58 When the crowd start booing the ref's decisions then the ref is doing something wrong.

    With the advances in technology now available to the armchair ref the real ref's failings are more exposed. The answer is for the real ref's to make sure that they are at least consistent during the game and many are not. I do not believe for one instant that France were so squeaky clean in the 2nd half on Sunday as to not give away any penalties but the Irish offered up 9 in the same period.

    Also, refereeing should be consistent across all games in the same tournament and it never is. This seems to come from some refs believing that they know better when they don't.

    #61 I agree with your comments about Wales but I would add that Wales have been gifted a couple of games over the few years by bad refereeing.

  • Comment number 66.

    Disappointed, but not surprised, by the swap of Jackson for Weir on the bench. I've been very unimpressed by Jackson in his last couple of outings and do not accept he has earned that return. His lack of vision of what is going on around him is alarming and his forward flip passes far too common. I expect Robinson to pick a highly inappropriate moment to bring Cusiter and Jackson into the game.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    #64 You didn't watch the game against France then? NDL did not start, Murray was not on the bench and neither was Jackson. Those that did start did a pretty good job with only lack of experience letting them down in some areas. It is no good putting out an entire team of rookies, you need to have experience somewhere in the side.

    I thought that Scotland would get a right thumping from France but it didn't turn out that way. Ireland by 10 is probably a bit optimistic from an Irish perspective.

  • Comment number 69.

    Maybe AR is losing patience with the Sabbath spanner in the works. You have to feel for Sean Lamont. He's been shuffled around all over the place. I'd have started Max at 13. Groan. I'm totally clueless as to why AR favours de Luca so highly.

    Our #10 spot is a headache. At least we are spoiled for choice now. I feel for wee Dunc not keeping his place on the bench. In 2-3 years I believe he will be the established regular at 10.

  • Comment number 70.

    So no changes in the side at all other than the enforced replacement to Rory Lamont with NDL. Not surprised with the back selection it's what I was expecting and happy that we have an out and out centre at 13. I really like Lamont as a player for his passion but his positional sense at 13 is something that could have been badly exploited by Earls.

    Evans offers a good option off the bench but Cuisiter shouldn't really be there, that should either be Lawson or an other back with Laidlaw covering the SH berth.

    I am surprised that there's no change in the front row, guess we just have to hope they've been knocking hell out of the scrummage machine over the last week!

  • Comment number 71.

    #66. That's pretty much how I see things, too. Unfortunately. A very fit Jackson in a rich vein of form is a big asset to the team. Weir deserved to at least retain his place on the bench for the moment.

  • Comment number 72.

    It's good to see Mark Bennett selected for the U20s, having returned from injury and I have hopes for Harry Leonard's future too. With Tonks joining Edinburgh next season and the Shingler matter to be sorted this week, we could almost hope to be really spoiled for choice for the next few years. Weir looks a far better player than Jackson to me, but it wouldn't be a Scottish team announcement if I was totally happy with all 22 players.

  • Comment number 73.

    #68

    Try reading what I wrote again and then explain to me in what way "NDL coming in at centre" implies that I thought he was in the starting line-up against France.

  • Comment number 74.

    We got mauled in the scrum against France, so the sensible thing is not to bring in murray and/or welsh, and just hope for the best? Really?

    The idea that NDL is a better 13 that Evans is verging on insulting. Also, is Grove in the bad books?

    No idea why Cusiter and Jackson are on the bench. Lawson, Weir, Samson are all better options at the moment...

    I've never subscribed to the 'Robinson has favourites' mantra, but this selection makes it crystal clear. To be fair to him though, he's got the media wrapped around his finger, so he can do what he likes.

  • Comment number 75.

    Jamesmatthew trying to provoke an argument with your accusartions of Welsh cheating eh!! If this is the case, with a yellow or redcard in 5 of their last 6 games they're not getting away with it very well! As I've said before its a healthy sign when teams get accused of cheating as it is a sign that teams are playing on the edge and at high intensity!! The same criticism has been levelled at the AB's and in particular Riche McCaw for most of the last decade.

    Perhaps Richie McCaw is a cheat or perhaps he has just been the best player in the world for most of the last decade...

    Prediction this weekend either team by a score. I'll go for scotland because i feel its long overdue and Ireland are more likely to get fatigued for the last quarter from the 6 day tuurnaround...

  • Comment number 76.

    NdL being favoured over Ansbro at the RWC had me totally baffled.

    Considering the number of backs being shuffled around and played out of position, Evans starting at 13 seemed like the best way to go. Especially as Morrison and Evans know each others game inside out from their Warriors' days.

    Max is at least as good defensively as NdL and certainly offers more in attack.

    I'm not in to slagging off NdL. He doesn't select himself and he'll do his best. I hope he plays a stormer.

  • Comment number 77.

    #76

    A number of things at the RWC baffled me, such as was Moray Low invisible, why was the captain not playing more often, why was Murray not playing when he was available and why was Cusiter taken instead of Laidlaw, who could cover 9 and 10?

  • Comment number 78.

    Scotland : Stuart Hogg, Lee Jones, Nick De Luca, Graeme Morrison, Sean Lamont, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, John Barclay, Ross Rennie, David Denton. Replacements : Scott Lawson, Euan Murray, Al Kellock, Richie Vernon, Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson, Max Evans.

    Will no shocks there then, I can see the head lines on Sunday "It's the Ref's fault, blah blah blah blah"

  • Comment number 79.

    I think Scotland will have a very, very strong chance of winning. A lot depends on the ref, as the irish, well they play the 'irish' way. But I thought Scotland were better against us than the irish. Furthermore the loss of their captain and the much overrated sexton will have obviously some bearing on the result.

  • Comment number 80.

    #79 "I thought Scotland were better against us than the irish"

    I think your being disingenuous there. To say that Scotland played better then Ireland and lost at home while Ireland drew and should have won in France is a bit condesending to the Scots.

    Scotland will put up a good game they always show great heart but they just dont have the confidence or key players at the minute and to expect them to go to Dublin and win when they cant win at home against worse teams (ie: England/France) is really asking for too much.

  • Comment number 81.

    I think your being disingenuous there. To say that Scotland played better then Ireland and lost at home while Ireland drew and should have won in France is a bit condesending to the Scots.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I think you need to understand that some people will have different opinions to you.
    Its not condescending at all, and I firmly reject that notion.
    The final score doesn't reflect the game in my opinion. For starters, if the ref had awarded the justifiable yellow card in the first half the outcome, in my opinion, would have been different. Furthermore we played much better against the scots than the irish.

    So in my opinion the loss of the two players at ireland, the more talent in the scotland side, and certainly more potential, combined with a just ref on the day will have very likely a scottish victory as the outcome.

  • Comment number 82.

    LOL.... "The wheels on the bus go round and round and round all day long" One thing I will say, I won't be watching BBC at 17:00hrs on Saturday that's for sure..... Feel sorry for the players that have been over looked again!!!!!

    N.B. Mr Robinson the score is 0 and 3, reconsider your selection policy..... sorry in fact it's 0 and 5.

    #74 Spot on with your comments.

  • Comment number 83.

    #80 Ireland are better than France and England? What does the table suggest? And if you can't spell condescending you shouldn't really use the word should you?

    I really hope Scotland do get a win in Dublin. If we don't I'm gonna support England from now on. They get results with a woeful team.

  • Comment number 84.

    #83 "If we don't I'm gonna support England from now on"

    I would expect you to support your fellow country men if your not going to support Scotland. You are brothers in the 1 country after all. Although I don't see much support down here in England for the Scots but there ya go. You need to be the bigger man and love your brothers unconditionally.

  • Comment number 85.

    #84, I do love my brothers, it's just an Englishman keeps messing it all up!

    I've lived in England for over 10 years I'll never tire of switching on the telly, expecting to watch my Scotland beat someone. I gave up on rugby a while ago, moved to tennis and back to rugby again. It's hard work supporting Scotland.

  • Comment number 86.

    This tournament has been pretty harsh on Scotland. In all the games they've played so far they've been the better team for around 50 minutes, give or take. Yet it's what the other teams did in the other 30 that has caused them to be sitting where they are in the tournament.

    Ireland are not too far off the same predicament and I personally think Kidney has been a bit niaive with his squad selection. He basically took much the same squad that didn't have a very successful world cup and seemed to think this would be good enough to win the 6 nations.

    Scotland are perfectly capable of going out there on Saturday and playing well and winning the game. That said they're equally capable of going out there playing well and losing or indeed not playing well at all. A lot will depend on how they react to their 3 straight losses as it must be disheartening. I for one hope they pull it off as I think their due a win.

  • Comment number 87.

    James wales have won every game in this championship because theyve scored more tries in each match than the team theyve been playing - 3 to ireland's one, 3 to scotland's one and one against a trieless england last week! nothing lucky about wales having a grand slam to go for and nothing to do with any alleged 'cheating'. just as wales demolished ireland in last years world cup fairly and squarely. And yes...we will beat italy on saturday.....quite comfortably probably.

    the big question this weekend is what fate will befall the two nations who are the most overated in this champinship.....ireland and england......and whos suppoters are sadly most envious at welsh success......

  • Comment number 88.

    What is frustrating is the time it takes AR to realise what is plainly obvious to most Scotland fans. For example not until our 3rd outing did AR finally start Blair and Laidlaw together...as for dropping Weir from the 22! What has Jackson shown to warrant that??

    I really just don't think AR knows how to pick a side....or to make a reasonable replacement for that matter.

    To paraphrase Einstein: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity!
    The young boys have made it exciting to watch Scotland when given a chance. They don't have the weight of years of under achievement on their shoulders!!

    I believe Laidlaw will eventually replace Blair at SH.
    Weir or Jackson will have to fight for the #10 jersey
    Visser, Evans and Hogg will make an exceptional back 3.
    When Scott, Grove actually get a chance, and Tonks comes in, we do have competition in the midfield.

    Not all doom and gloom. As always...cautiously optimistic about the weekend.

  • Comment number 89.

    Hi

    Two quick points...........it is blatently clear that the coach has his favourites as all coaches do.

    1. Weir came on against France and did ok and got a conversion. Why do you think he has been dropped ? I am an intelligent person but cannot work out why. If Jackson comes on for Laidlaw and has to kick a penalty ask any warriors fan it is likely he will miss

    2. What does Jackson have this season that Weir does not !!

    Personally, I think that decision is absolutely dreadful and beggers belief !!

  • Comment number 90.

    Agree with post 3, you do have decent players and are starting to get a good balance in the backline with Hogg, Evans and Laidlaw/Jackson able to change the tempo from the straight bruisers in the remaining positions. Forwards are excellent in the loose and the ruck/maul. Just need to beef up the scrum. Scotland have bossed every game with the amount of ball won, passes and offloads and have forced the opposition to make lots of tries. They are also spending quality time in the oppositions 22. The players just need to believe in each other and run the supporting lines which will bring home the tries.

    Ireland are playing well and have the choke tackle well rehearsed, just avoid taking the ball into contact too often and the threat will be somewhat nullified. Get the pass timed right and you will take two Irish defenders out as well.

    Should be a good game, as the majority have been this six nations with only three wins by over 7 pts from the nine games so far.

  • Comment number 91.

    #47, Midas-Child. Don't like being negative and negativity currently felt is out of frustration but also realism. Two years is a very long time in rugby union and if memory serves Dan Parks played a massive part in the Dublin 2010 win and look what happened to him.
    Based on current form, Ireland are certain favourites and man for man are the better team and, I believe, by some margin. Sorry Midas, but I can only see more of the same type of performance by Scotland - lots of effort for sure but those fundamental errors with ball in hand and the lack of awareness of support play (look how well Ireland did that in Paris) aren't an overnight fix and I expect a loss.

 

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