The opening round of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations wraps up in Dublin on Sunday as Ireland – with Joe Schmidt making his coaching debut in the Championship – look to clear the first hurdle against Scotland.
2014 RBS 6 NATIONS: Sunday, February 2
IRELAND v SCOTLAND, Aviva Stadium, 3pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC One/IRFU Live Blog)
Team News: Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney will both reach significant career milestones when they line out for Ireland against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.
O’Driscoll will earn his 129th cap on Sunday and in doing so becomes Ireland’s most-capped player of all-time, while Kearney wins his 50th cap for Ireland.
Paul O’Connell captains the side and will be partnered in the second row by Devin Toner, who will be making his frst Six Nations start.
The front row is made up of Leinster duo Cian Healy and Mike Ross with Ulster’s Rory Best at hooker.
The back row sees Chris Henry come in at openside flanker for his first Six Nations start, with Munster captain Peter O’Mahony on the blindside and Jamie Heaslip at number 8.
Conor Murray partners Jonathan Sexton at half-back with Luke Marshall and O’Driscoll paired together in the centre.
The back-three sees Rob Kearney at full-back, his younger brother Dave Kearney will make his Six Nations debut on the left wing and Ulster’s Andrew Trimble returns on the right for his first Championship start in two years.
Leinster props Jack McGrath and Martin Moore are both standing by to make their Six Nations bows off the bench, with 22-year-old tighthead Moore poised to follow up on his debut for the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds last weekend.
There are two more potential Championship debutants on the bench in Dan Tuohy and Tommy O’Donnell, the Ulster lock having won all seven of his caps to date on summer tours.
Isaac Boss’ selection as reserve scrum half is another notable inclusion. He last played for Ireland during the North America tour last June, but has not featured in a Six Nations game since scoring a try in the famous 2007 Croke Park win over England.
Meanwhile, Scotland have made four changes to their starting line-up and a further positional switch as they prepare to face Ireland in Dublin.
2013 Lion Stuart Hogg returns at full-back having missed the November internationals through injury.
The other alterations to the Scottish team that lined out against Australia see Alex Dunbar preferred to Nick De Luca in the centre, Tim Swinson gets the nod over Grant Gilchrist in the second row and a fourth Glasgow Warriors player, Ryan Wilson, is chosen at blindside flanker instead of Johnnie Beattie.
For Dunbar, Swinson and Wilson it is their first Six Nations start and the same goes for Duncan Taylor at inside centre.
Sean Maitland, who scored on his first outing in the Championship in the opening game last season, moves to the right wing to accommodate Hogg in the number 15 jersey.
Scotland will be captained by Kelly Brown, who will be winning his 61st cap, thus equalling Doddie Weir’s record as the most-capped product of the Melrose club.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster), Luke Marshall (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster); Jonathan Sexton (Racing Metro 92), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster) (capt), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Chris Henry (Malone/Ulster), Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster).
Replacements: Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Martin Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster), Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster), Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster).
SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors); Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh); Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Montpellier), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors), Kelly Brown (Saracens) (capt), David Denton (Edinburgh).
Replacements: Pat MacArthur (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Castres Olympique), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Max Evans (Castres Olympique).
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Television Match Official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 1/7; Draw: 33/1; Scotland to win: 11/2
Pre-Match Quotes: John Plumtree (Ireland) – “It’s been a long time since our last performance, so it’s just great to get back into it. It seems as though supporters hype it (the Six Nations) up more than southern Hemisphere Test matches and Super 15 rugby.
“I’m sure the intensity of the occasion will match that. We’ll definitely be ready.
“Scotland have got some quite good depth there (in the forwards). Their pack was slightly different from what I thought it would be.
“But we don’t really have to change too much, because we know they will be coming hard at us with the ball, and trying to make it a real battle at the tackle.
“They’ve got a dynamic back row and two gritty guys in the second row there too, so we’ll have our work cut out.
“Tim Swinson is a big carrier and a pretty physical tackler, so he can cause problems if allowed. And then they have Richie Gray to come off the bench and he will add an extra element in the last 20 I’m sure.”
Kelly Brown (Scotland) – “We’re expecting Ireland to come flying out of the blocks. Any away game in the Six Nations will be hostile so we are expecting that, but at the end of the day it is down to 15 against 15.
“We have not won our first game in the Six Nations for a number of years, so if we can start well then we can build some momentum.
“We finished third last year, which was our highest finish in quite a number of years, as a squad we need to keep working hard.
“On top of that, it’s about making sure we’re more consistent because in the past we’ve maybe raised ourselves for one-off games but we have to make sure we do that time and again.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2011: RBS 6 Nations: Scotland 18 Ireland 21, Murrayfield; Rugby World Cup Warm-Up: Scotland 10 Ireland 6, Murrayfield
2012: RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 32 Scotland 14, Aviva Stadium
2013: RBS 6 Nations: Scotland 12 Ireland 8, Murrayfield