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Slam-chasing Irish the hammer of the Scots?

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Bryn Palmer | 18:34 UK time, Friday, 13 March 2009

So the big question. Will the Irish do a job on Scotland at Murrayfield and set up another Grand Slam attempt?

Or will the green army be drowning their sorrows in the bars of Edinburgh's Rose Street come Saturday night?

There is a general perception that Ireland have blown all manner of Grand Slam opportunities, in the great English tradition, over the last decade.

But while they have only lost one match, and finished runners-up, in five of the nine seasons (2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) since the Five Nations became Six, four of those years have come to be seen as lost opportunities in hindsight.

Only once have Ireland arrived at the last game of a Championship with four wins under their belt, and on that occasion - in 2003 - they were comprehensively thumped by England in Dublin.

Which serves as a timely reminder, as their legendary former captain Willie John McBride pointed out on Friday, that all Grand Slam talk is redundant until Saturday night anyway.

Failure to win at Murrayfield, and the sense of anti-climax going to Cardiff for the tournament finale next week will be huge, as it was in 2005, despite the fact they could, as four years ago, still win the title.

Edinburgh should not hold any fears for this group of Irish players, who put a dismal 18-year Irish losing sequence in the Scottish capital to bed in 2003.

Sure, they lost there in a World Cup warm-up match two years ago, but they haven't done so in the Six Nations since 2001, a match played in late September when the tournament was disrupted by a foot-and-mouth outbreak.

These Irish players seem relaxed about the mounting Grand Slam hype heaped upon them by an expectant nation.

Word is legendary folk singer Christy Moore joined the squad for a private concert this week at their base overlooking Killiney Bay in south Dublin, and joker-in-chief Donncha O'Callaghan joined the 63-year-old on stage for a duet.

But any thoughts of a complacent Irish side turning up at Murrayfield seem highly unlikely.

If coach Declan Kidney has worked his usual motivational magic, Ireland will run out convinced they are about to take on the All Blacks.

"Declan's big thing is to always build up the opposition, you know," explains Paul O'Connell. "I think it is great for us, it stops you getting ahead of yourself all the time.

"I think if we can play to the best of our ability this weekend, we can win, but we will be very wary. No team that comes under Declan will ever go into a game over-confident but as players, we need to think, and we do feel, that if we put in an 80-minute performance, we can beat teams and beat them well."

This is also a very important game for Scotland, lest we forget. Rumours north of the border suggest the Scottish Rugby Union demands two wins a year in the Six Nations, and that Frank Hadden's job will again come under scrutiny if he fails to deliver that minimum requirement for a second year in a row.

The Scots' last game is at Twickenham, where they have not won for 26 years, so Saturday represents their best hope of securing that potentially coach-saving second win.

As for Hadden's opposite number, Kidney could be on his way to emulating what Warren Gatland did with Wales last year, and winning the Six Nations at his first attempt.

Gatland will have something to say about that in Cardiff on Saturday week, but there are other similarities developing.

Like Gatland, Kidney - after retaining the same side for three games in a row - has not been afraid to change a winning team this week, something O'Connell admits came as a shock.

"It's the first time it has happened in my time with Ireland," he notes. "But I think it is a good thing. The guys coming into the side are very hungry, and the ones who have dropped to the bench are probably going to be hungrier when they come on, so it gives us a great edge. It makes the players realise that your next game could be your last. It is a good mindset for us."

So very much the old 'one-game-at-a-time' mantra then, but a quiet confidence they will get the job done.

For what it's worth, I think they'll do it by about eight to 10 points. Any further offers on that?


  • Comment number 1.

    I think that 8-10 may be generous, Ireland haven't exactly shone in the last 2 games. I still believe it will be an Ireland win - I certainly hope so!

  • Comment number 2.

    Scotland to win by margin of 8

  • Comment number 3.

    I predict a tight first half full of penalties but Ireland to get a couple of tries in the second to kill off the Scots.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think the game will be very tight with one piece of magic to settle it. You should never under estimate the Scots. Ireland by 5, then bring on the Slam !!!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    You boys have been paying too much attention to the media and Kidney's (rightful) playing down Ireland's aspirations to a first grand slam in generations. A tight game? Ireland by 5? Are ye mad? My prediction is Ireland by at least two or three tries and a few penalties to boot - maybe even another O'Driscoll drop goal? 20 point margin at least. Bring it on!

  • Comment number 6.

    As a Scot, I can only hope for, and indeed want, a Scottish win. On saying that, I think defeat by the Irish would do us a power of good - failure to win the required 2 out of 5 games in this years 6N (unfortunately, as bad as England are, I can see Twickenham being our usual bogey) will hopefully see the end of Hadden's tenure. I admire Frank Hadden for what he has done, but he is far too defensive for Scotland's own good. The only problem is, who would replace him? Sean Lineen would be my candidate, but that leaves a massive gap in our club rugby, and Scotland is sorely lacking in quality coaches.

  • Comment number 7.

    On current form you would say that Scotland are favourites. They demolished a good italian side at Murrayfield in their last game whereas Ireland only just scraped past the worst England side i can remember (I'm 27)and that was only made possible with the help of Phil Vickery and Danny Care's yellow cards.

    I can see Scotland finishing this seasons 6 Nations in Third position behind Wales (First, I hope) and France respectively.

  • Comment number 8.

    What was the point of this article? The record between the teams is well known by anyone interested in rugby. Where is the debate on tactics, players, strategy, coaches, play? 'specialise in rugby'...hardly in this article! Aye I'm sure Christy Moore will be the difference between the teams come 5 o'clock tonight.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think Ireland will win because they have a faster back row and Scotland will be forced to keep the ball tight against a pack they probably can't dominate. I reckon Luke Fitzgerald will be the key difference out wide, if hadden doesn't swap the wingers and cancel him out by playing evans at 14 rather than 11. My only hope is that the Irish players understandably (and not arrogantly) don't buy Kidney mind games and reckon they can thump the scots and that the new players take too many risks to get a nod for the Welsh game. Another howler from ROG will also help. I think it will be tighter than usual (10 points) though mainly because the Irish won't be at their best with all the pressure to perform and regain momentum. With Scotland not picking a matchfit Hines they are more interested in avoiding unnecessary penalties than potentially winning the game though which is disappointing.

  • Comment number 10.

    My prediction is Scotland 6 Ireland 24

  • Comment number 11.

    Dutchirish is talking nonsense. The Italian team is not good.
    It is further nonsense to suggest that Ireland only beat England thanks to the yellow cards. The yellow cards were awarded against England players because of continued fouling by England. If England had not ruined Irish posession so often by foul play, the score would have been much greater in favour of Ireland.
    Vernonmount has a point. The article offers no discussion on tactics, players etc. Scotland has won some great results over the years by spoiling tactics. I think this is the greatest threat to Ireland. I believe that Scotland will make no attempt to take on Ireland in a skilful game of rugby. Everything will be geared to spoiling Irish posession, frustrating Irish play and hoping to sneak a victory by capitalising on mistakes into which they would hope to force Ireland.
    How many times over the years have the Scots been able to muster up one massive performance in a season to spoil the chances of another team from winning a title/Grand Slam? They never seem to be able to muster enough big performances to actually win something for themselves, it is always about stopping another team.

  • Comment number 12.

    Penalties penalties PENALTIES.Patterson can destroy us so Denis Leamy your desire to impress must not boil over.Ireland by a romp or defeat by the boot.

  • Comment number 13.

    Paterson may well hold the key to today. By that, I expect such a close match, that penalties may be the extent to which we see either side score today.
    Scotland have a decent disciplinary record, much akin to the Irish, so hope that the spectre of yellow cards swinging matches doesn't appear. I see it being a well matched game in the forwards and can't wait to see if both massively improved flankers this year in Leamy and Strokosh get medieval on each other(!) and as for the backs, I've long admired D'Arcy as an inspirational, if somewhat gobby to coaching staff hence relatively low cap count, centre, and for him to pair up with O'Driscoll will make it a hard day at the office for the inexperienced Scots pairing of Morrison and T Evans. If it's all going to go Pete Tong today for the Scots, it will be route one by BO'D and Mr Darcy straight through the pair of them.
    I'm a Jock, so will be cheering on the boys, but I'd also like to see and ambassador of the sport such as Mr O'Driscoll win a Grand Slam in his career after putting so much into it on and off the field.
    Doubt my Welsh pals will be saying the same next week come crunch time!!


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