Taking over from injured team-mates Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell, Ulster hooker Rory Best will have the honour of captaining Ireland for their final home match of the 2012 RBS 6 Nations against Scotland. It will also be a memorable occasion for young flanker Peter O’Mahony, who is making his first start at Test level.
2012 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, March 10
IRELAND (4th) v SCOTLAND (5th), Aviva Stadium, 5pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC One)
Team News: The Ireland team to play Scotland in the penultimate round of the RBS 6 Nations at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday has been named.
In the absence of the injured Paul O’Connell (knee), Rory Best has been named as captain and he will lead out the team for the third time.
Best, whose brother Simon also captained Ireland, previously took on the captaincy duties for Ireland in their summer tour wins over Canada and the USA in 2009.
“It’s a great honour to captain your country. It’s something growing up that you dream of doing,” said the Ulster hooker.
“It’s very unfortunate what has happened to Paulie, but I was obviously very honoured when Declan (Kidney) asked me to captain the side.
“We know we’ll have to be on the money against Scotland. It will be a massive challenge for our defence.”
Donncha Ryan will start his first RBS 6 Nations game in the second row, having featured as a replacement in five previous games in the Championship.
Connacht’s versatile forward Mike McCarthy, who made his Ireland debut in the GUINNESS Summer Series last August, has been promoted to the replacements bench.
Eoin Reddan will partner Jonathan Sexton at scrum half in place of the injured Conor Murray (knee) with Tomas O’Leary added to the bench.
On Thursday, flanker Sean O’Brien was forced to withdraw from the Ireland side due to a skin infection on his foot which has failed to recover as quickly as expected. The infection has required intravenous antibiotics.
Peter O’Mahony has moved up from the replacements to start at number 7 against the Scots, with Shane Jennings being called into the squad to take O’Mahony’s place on the bench.
Meanwhile, Scotland have made one change in personnel to their starting team for Saturday’s Celtic clash in Dublin.
Nick De Luca, the Edinburgh centre who impressed off the bench against France, returns with Sean Lamont moving to take up his customary wing berth in place of his injured younger brother, Rory.
On the Scots’ replacements bench, meanwhile, there are three changes with Euan Murray, Ruaridh Jackson and Max Evans coming in for Ed Kalman, Duncan Weir and De Luca respectively.
Scotland head coach Andy Robinson said: “We did many good things in the game against France but we need to be better, especially in our accuracy and execution at breakdown, in order to beat Ireland.
“If we do the basic things well and are ruthless in contact then we can put ourselves in a position to defeat a very good Ireland team.”
Robinson is asking De Luca to replicate the form he showed against France by handing him the starting berth, while he also welcomes back Jackson as reserve out-half.
“Ruaridh has worked hard and done well in his games with Glasgow,” he added.
“He had a tough time with injury following the Rugby World Cup but he has the strength of character required in international rugby.
“We are also delighted to see Max and Euan back in the squad and look forward to their contribution this weekend.”
IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).
Replacements: Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht), Shane Jennings (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin/Munster), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster).
SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Lee Jones (Edinburgh), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Lamont (Scarlets); Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh), Mike Blair (Edinburgh); Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh) (capt), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Ross Rennie (Edinburgh), David Denton (Edinburgh).
Replacements: Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Euan Murray (Newcastle Falcons), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Max Evans (Castres Olympique).
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Greg Garner (England)
Television Match Official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 3/10; Draw: 25/1; Scotland to win: 11/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Mike Ross (Ireland) – “It was good to hear Conor’s injury’s not so bad and in Eoin Reddan we’ve a ready-made replacement. He plays with Johnny Sexton at Leinster so there’s already that stability there.
“Paul’s obviously a big loss but there are good players looking to come in and take their own opportunity.
“The boys were gutted in the dressing room after the game (against France), it felt like a loss. It was disappointing that we gave away that penalty (to level the game) having built up good pressure in defence.
“Our own mistakes put us in that position. We weren’t as accurate at set piece as we needed to be – at this level there is no margin for error and little timing issues can cost you. We’ve worked on them this week.
“For us obviously now it’s more about performance. The Scots will look to play a quick tempo, wear you out by taking you through the phases, and then try and catch you out with some of their quick backs.
“They’re strong in the lineout and bring good size with (Richie) Gray and (Jim) Hamilton. They’ll play a lot of phases and look to wear you out – it’ll have to be a very disciplined performance from us in defence.”
Ross Ford (Scotland) – “Results are what matter. But I think, for me personally, the team is going in the right direction. The squad, we believe in the way Andy’s trying to coach us.
“Every game, we’ve had opportunities to put teams under more pressure and close games out, but we’ve not been able to do that. So, we go across to Dublin on Saturday again looking to start really well.
“I think the way we performed in parts against France is the best Scotland has played for couple of years now.
“You can see, when we are going well, it’s something really spectacular at times. Keep that going for 80 minutes and the results will come.
“So that’s what we are going across on Saturday to do…is perform like we have done but sustain it.
“I think it is about keeping your chin up. There’s no use getting down about it (the run of defeats). You have got to lead by example and I just go out and try my hardest.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2009: RBS 6 Nations: Scotland 15 Ireland 22, Murrayfield
2010: RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 20 Scotland 23, Croke Park
2011: RBS 6 Nations: Scotland 18 Ireland 21, Murrayfield; Rugby World Cup Warm-Up: Scotland 10 Ireland 6, Murrayfield