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Countdown To Murrayfield: Four Days To Go

Countdown To Murrayfield: Four Days To Go

…Gaffney Confident Ireland Can Cope With Pressure…Steadman Can See Players’ Influence…Recent Meetings – Ireland v Scotland Match Reports…Say What?…Numbers Game…

GAFFNEY CONFIDENT IRELAND CAN COPE WITH PRESSURE: With only two rounds of matches left in the 2009 RBS 6 Nations and Ireland sitting top of the table, the expectation levels are increasing by the day.

The excitement has been building amongst fans that Declan Kidney’s current squad could be about to end Ireland’s long wait for a first Grand Slam since 1948.

With the players concentrating on their fast-approaching showdown with Scotland, backs coach Alan Gaffney feels there is no way they will allow themselves to think about a potential Grand Slam decider against Wales on Saturday week.

With Kidney heading up an experienced coaching set-up, Ireland look well set for arguably their toughest two games of the Championship.

Gaffney said: “Deccie’s been very good in this area. He’s got a lot of experience around him. 

“Les has been around a long time, he’s been involved in two finals with the Waratahs in the Super 14.

“Gert’s been involved obviously with a World Cup-winning side. There’s a lot of experience around and obviously Deccie has an enormous amount of experience in these areas.

“The players understand, they’ve been around a long time themselves. They know we’ve got to go and perform at the weekend against Scotland.

“There’s no point trying to think a week in advance. It just doesn’t work that way.

“They (Scotland and Wales) play entirely differently. We can’t even think about Wales at the present time.

“It’s there in the back of the mind, somewhere in the sub-consious. But it’s just a totally different way of playing, the way Scotland will play and the way Wales will play.

“They couldn’t be more diametrically opposed actually, from a defensive sense. Not so much from an attack sense because they both like to run.”

STEADMAN CAN SEE PLAYERS’ INFLUENCE: It is a subplot that has and will continue to fascinate the media in both Ireland and Scotland in the build-up to Saturday’s encounter – the inside knowledge that Scotland defence coach Graham Steadman and forwards coach Mike Brewer possess as they look to derail the Irish Grand Slam bid.

Steadman was Ireland’s defence coach between 2005 and 2008 and former All Black captain Brewer has extensive knowledge of the Irish game having operated as Leinster’s forwards coach for three years.

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So, as he looks to turn over his former team, how does Steadman rate the new Ireland set-up and their efforts so far this season?

“I think what Declan Kidney has brought to the squad is a calming influence,” said the former Great Britain rugby league international.

“The set-up will be more player driven, whereas when I worked with Eddie O’Sullivan for two-and-a-half seasons, he would run the rule over most aspects of their preparation.

“Obviously Declan will have the final say on tactics and strategy within their set-up, but the likes of Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara will certainly have a big influence.

“That is one of Declan’s qualities – he will feel he can trust the players.”

Steadman also acknowledged just how strong the Munster influence is in Ireland’s play. That will be the case again on Saturday with O’Gara being joined at half-back by Peter Stringer and six Munster players selected in the starting pack.  

“They do mirror very much the way Munster play. They play with a lot of patience, are very disciplined with ball in hand and will play to the 75th minute and never panic.

“That is something that Munster have had for a number of seasons which puts them in a very strong position to compete in every trophy that has been available to them, hence the success they have had in the Heineken Cup.

“They have not always been great to watch but the bottom line is they get the job done and get the result in the end. The prime example is the Heineken Cup final last year against Toulouse when they just ground out the last 15 minutes and played keep-ball.

“That was the influence of the players and also Declan giving them the responsibility.

“That is the way the Ireland set-up will be, plus they have the quality of the likes of O’Driscoll who is hitting a rich vein of form.

“His confidence is definitely the best I have seen for two seasons. He is getting back to his best with British and Irish Lions selection in the background.”

RECENT MEETINGS – IRELAND v SCOTLAND MATCH REPORTS: Look back at the most recent clashes between Ireland and Scotland at Test match level, with IrishRugby.ie’s own match reports. Click on the links below:

2008 RBS 6 Nations – Ireland 34 Scotland 13, Croke Park 

2007 World Cup Warm-Up – Scotland 31 Ireland 21, Murrayfield 

2007 RBS 6 Nations – Scotland 19 Ireland 18, Murrayfield 

2006 RBS 6 Nations – Ireland 15 Scotland 9, Lansdowne Road 


“I know a lot about the individuals and their new defensive coach (Les Kiss) has similar principles to myself. This time they will travel with a great deal of confidence and we have to get in their faces.

“We can cause what, at this stage, would be a little bit of a surprise. What Declan Kidney has brought is more of a calming influence and his set-up will be more player driven.

“Having worked with Eddie O’Sullivan for two-and-a-half seasons he would rule on most aspects, whereas Declan will give the players more responsibility while retaining the final say.

“Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara will certainly have a big influence.”

– Scotland defence coach Graham Steadman, who worked with Ireland between 2005 and 2008, gives his opinion on the current Irish set-up and their approach to Saturday’s game

“I understand that there’s talk of a Grand Slam and we have to learn to deal with the pressure that’s coming up. Honestly, I’m not looking beyond Scotland.

“People say to me, ‘the expectation should be considered a compliment’, but I don’t take the expectation as a compliment. A pat on the back is only two inches from a kick in the hole. You have to live by that.

“I’ve been through it when we were winning Triple Crowns and everyone was all about you and then we went through the horror of the World Cup and it got a bit personal, a bit nasty.

“For the older guys who have been through good times and bad times, you’ve really got to take it all with a pinch of salt.

“We can’t look beyond what’s happening in Scotland next week. We’ve worked very hard as a group, improved as a group, and I understand the excitement that’s out there.

“If I was out there on the other side, I’d love to be reading about it and watching it on TV. The players let it roll off their backs, make sure that the heads are right for Saturday.”

– Ireland prop Marcus Horan talks about coping with the pressure mounting on Declan Kidney’s men to secure the nation’s first Grand Slam since 1948

“It was a difficult game against England. It’s been written and said that he didn’t have a good game against England.

“I don’t totally agree with that at all. If you look at the game, it never really developed for him in that area.

I think a game like Scotland, where it will be a little bit freer, should suit Ronan. I’m looking for a big performance from him.”
– Ireland backs coach Alan Gaffney gives his view on Ronan O’Gara’s performance last time out against England and what he expects from the Munster out-half this weekend


12 –
South African official Jonathan Kaplan, the referee for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations match between Ireland and Scotland, will be in charge of his 12th international game involving Ireland. Ireland have won seven and lost four of those previous fixtures

6 – The most tries scored by an individual player in the Ireland v Scotland series has been six by former Scotland and Lions scrum half Roy Laidlaw.

Laidlaw touched down six times in nine games between 1980 and 1988. The record for most tried scored by an Irish player – five tries – is jointly held by Alan Duggan (1967 to 1971) and Brendan Mullin (1985 to 1995)

14 – Legendary Ireland centre Mike Gibson holds the record for most appearances in the Ireland v Scotland series, playing 14 times between 1964 and 1979.

Gibson faced Scotland on eight occasions as a centre, five times at out-half and once as a replacement winger. Sandy Carmichael, Scott Hastings and Bill MacLagan all appeared eleven times for Scotland against Ireland