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Countdown To Murrayfield: Five Days To Go

Countdown To Murrayfield: Five Days To Go

…Gaffney Runs The Rule Over Scotland…In-Form Danielli Plots Ireland’s Downfall…Stat Attack – Ireland v Scotland…Say What?…Numbers Game…

GAFFNEY RUNS THE RULE OVER SCOTLAND: Backs coach Alan Gaffney believes Ireland will have to adopt a patient approach if they are to defeat Scotland and reign supreme at Murrayfield on Saturday.

“You can’t just try and get involved in a Sevens-style game with Scotland, that’s what they want you to do,” Gaffney said, looking ahead to the Edinburgh encounter.

“We’ve got to keep control. During the week, I’ve no doubt it’ll be touched upon that we’ve got to control the ball for periods of time.

“We just can’t try and look for the offload that’s not on. We’ve got to be expansive in one sense but on the other hand, keep it controlled.”

Having viewed Scotland’s recent games, Gaffney feels Frank Hadden’s men are coming into form towards the end of the Championship.

The Australian has a good feel for what approach the Scottish will take in attack and he particularly rates the wingers they have at their disposal.

“They’re a side that like to run the ball. You look at (Phil) Godman, he’s not a great kicking 10.

“(Mike) Blair’s a very good player, as we all know. In the midfield and on the wings, they’ve got some very good players.

“They’ve got some very good wingers. You look at the two they have at the moment and then they’ve the possibilities of playing (Simon) Webster, (Chris) Paterson, (Rory) Lamont. It’s great competition.

“I think Thom Evans has shown a lot of promise for a long time, he’s a good player.

“Obviously the other boy’s been out with injury for a long while – (Simon) Danielli – but he came back strongly in the last game against Italy.

“They like to get width on the game and they will stretch us.”

IN-FORM DANIELLI PLOTS IRELAND’S DOWNFALL: There is no doubt that Simon Danielli is enjoying a rich vein of form at present and few would begrudge the Ulster and Scotland winger his share of the limelight, after an injury-interrupted couple of years.

The 29-year-old put himself right back in the Scottish picture with a man-of-the-match performance in the recent win over Italy, scoring a try in the process.

He has also been impressive for Ulster in recent appearances, scoring a try against the Newport Gwent Dragons and setting up a try apiece for Darren Cave and Andrew Trimble in the province’s win over Glasgow last weekend.

All this comes after putting his signature on a contract extension with Ulster, for whom he has scored 11 tries in 22 outings to date.

Commenting on his decision to remain on at Ravenhill, Danielli said: “I will admit that ‘the boss’ (his girlfriend) has something to do with my re-signing for Ulster, but there are numerous other factors.

“It is a club with ambition and it is going forward. There were a few lows last year but things have picked up and the potential is definitely there.”

Danielli obviously has some insight to offer the Scottish squad in terms of the Ulster players who are the Irish panel for this weekend’s game.

He says former Ulster winger Tommy Bowe is ‘pure class’ and picked out Stephen Ferris as a player ‘you don’t get much change out of.’

But Scotland, he says, are primed to upset the RBS 6 Nations table-toppers and Ireland will not have it easy in Edinburgh.

“The mood in the Scotland squad is upbeat. There is a good atmosphere in the camp,” he explained.

“There is the realisation that we have the potential, we have a lot of talent. I don’t think that the pressure comes from the fans or the press but it comes from within the players themselves.

“We have our own expectations to live up to and that’s the biggest thing. Over here (in Ulster) I don’t even read the Scottish newspapers.”

STAT ATTACK – IRELAND v SCOTLAND: Irish rugby statistician Des Daly brings us some very interesting facts and figures in relation to Saturday’s Ireland v Scotland showdown.

In the only Rugby World Cup pool game played between the two countries, Scotland defeated Ireland 24-15 at Murrayfield in October 1991.
In RBS 6 Nations games since 2000, Ireland have beaten Scotland eight times and lost on only one occasion (2001).
Since this century began, Ireland have won nine of their eleven fixtures with Scotland.
In November 2006, Stephen Ferris (Ireland) and Jim Hamilton (Scotland) became the 1000th players to be capped by their respective countries.
Scotland have reached the quarter-finals of all six Rugby World Cups to date. Ireland have not appeared at the quarter-final stages on two occasions.
Scotland have won 14 International Championships (the last in 1999), Ireland have won ten (the last in 1985).
Scotland have won ten Triple Crowns (the last in 1990), Ireland have won nine (the last in 2007).
Since 1877, Ireland have played 62 games at five different venues in Scotland. The Irish record reads : Won 24, Drawn 1, Lost 37.
Ireland first played at Murrayfield in 1926. Since then, Ireland have won more times (21) at the venue than they have lost ( 19 ).
With four touchdowns, including a hat-trick at Lansdowne Road in 2002, Brian O’Driscoll is Ireland’s top try scorer against Scotland in the RBS 6 Nations.
In the nine RBS 6 Nations games against Scotland since 2000, Ireland have scored twice as many tries (24-12) with no Scotsman crossing the Irish line on more than one occasion.
The 44 points racked up against Scotland at Lansdowne Road in 2000 were the most ever scored by Ireland in an International Championship match.
In 2000 against Scotland, Keith Wood scored his tenth Irish try and achieved his first win in eleven outings as captain.
Ireland’s loss at Murrayfield in 2001 was the ninth successive defeat at the venue since 1987.
Six men of Munster featured in the Irish pack against Scotland in 2002 – team captain Mick Galwey won the last of his 41 Irish caps on that occasion.
The 30 points victory margin in 2003 was Ireland’s biggest ever over Scotland as David Humphreys helped himself to 26 points.
Against Scotland, five Leinster forwards started for Ireland in 2003 while five Limerick-born forwards started in 2006.
In the 2003 Rugby World Cup warm-up match at Murrayfield, Geordan Murphy broke his leg while Denis Hickie set a new Irish all-time try-scoring record (20).
Against Scotland in 2004, Brian O’Driscoll received his 50th Irish cap as Malcolm O’Kelly overtook Willie John McBride to become Ireland’s most-capped forward (64 caps).
Memories of 1982 came flooding back when Ireland clinched a seventh Triple Crown in 2004, again beating Scotland in the final leg at Lansdowne Road.
Mike Gibson’s reign as Ireland’s most-capped player came to an end at Murrayfield in 2005 when Malcolm O’Kelly won his 70th Irish cap.
At Murrayfield in 2007, Ireland lifted the Triple Crown for the first time on Scottish soil. For coach Eddie O’Sullivan and captain Brian O’Driscoll, it was a record third success, never before achieved in the history of Irish rugby.
Four Newbridge College former pupils – Geordan Murphy, Bernard Jackman, Jamie Heaslip and Tony Buckley – played for Ireland against Scotland at Croke Park in 2008.
In total, 48 games have been played by each country in the RBS 6 Nations since 2000. John Hayes (Ireland) did not play for Ireland in only one of those matches (v England 2000) while Chris Paterson (Scotland) has missed just two (v Ireland, v Italy 2000).
Already the top points scorer in the Six Nations, Ronan O’Gara needs five more points next Saturday to overhaul Jonny Wilkinson’s individual Championship record of 479 points.
Before the 1884 match between the two countries, Scotland had scored 16 tries against Ireland without an Irish try in reply.
For the first twelve games (1877 to 1889) between Ireland and Scotland, points were not used as a method of scoring.
The victory over Scotland at Ormeau in 1881 was Ireland’s first win in eleven international rugby matches.
Scotland beat Ireland eleven times between 1882 and 1892 while Ireland beat Scotland nine times between 1935 and 1954.
When Scotland last won (17-16) in Dublin eleven seasons back, it was Brian Ashton’s last of eight games as Ireland coach.


“It would definitely be a golf professional. The game causes me so much grief now but I’d love to be a 19-year-old named Rory McIlroy with all his talent and the ability to go on and carve a fantastic career in the sport.”

– Ireland lock Paul O’Connell, a budding golfer in his teenage years, answers a fan’s question about what career he would have chosen had he not made it as a professional rugby player

“I’m satisfied with the progress but I’m not happy yet – there are some goals we’re still looking at, areas where we have to improve if we’re to become a champion team.

“I’m just putting more emphasis on certain things. They’re used to scrummaging in a certain way. You try to change things slowly but surely.

“You don’t have much time with a national team – you can only change things a little bit at a time, maybe look at changing certain systems.”

– Ireland forwards coach Gert Smal explains what adjustments he has made and will continue to make with the Irish scrum, which has operated particularly well in the first three Championship games

“I am a big fan of the two wingers, I have always been a big fan of young Luke Fitzgerald having worked with him through his development process at Leinster and with Ireland when he was breaking into the first team squad.

“He is a quality player we can’t ignore, even though he is young and relatively inexperienced. Tommy Bowe is another player I rate highly.

“(Ronan) O’Gara has not hit his straps yet, not firing on all cylinders, but there is always a big game lurking somewhere. He is a big game player. I’d like to think it won’t happen at the weekend against us at Murrayfield.”

– Scotland defence coach Graham Steadman, who worked with Ireland between 2005 and 2008, name-checks Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe and Ronan O’Gara as players who the Scots will have to keep in check on Saturday


41 – Ireland have played Scotland at Murrayfield on 41 occasions since 1926. The Irish lead the way with 21 wins at the Edinburgh venue, the home side have won 19 of those matches and the only draw was back in 1979

92 – Ronan O’Gara, who made his Test debut against Scotland back in 2000, is the leading overall points scorers in the Ireland v Scotland series.

O’Gara has tallied up 92 points in ten matches against the Scots. Former Scotland and Lions captain Gavin Hastings has the corresponding record for Scotland with 75 points in ten games between 1986 and 1995. Chris Paterson is 10 points behind him

82 – Ireland are the top points scorers (82) and top try scorers (9) after the opening three rounds of the 2009 RBS 6 Nations. Scotland scored four tries in their first three games, tallying up 52 points (26 of which were scored last time out against Italy)