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RBS 6 Nations Preview: Scotland v Ireland

RBS 6 Nations Preview: Scotland v Ireland

It is make or break time for Ireland in this year’s RBS 6 Nations with Declan Kidney’s men needing a victory in Edinburgh to keep themselves in the hunt for silverware.

2013 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Sunday, February 24

SCOTLAND (2nd) v IRELAND (4th), Murrayfield, 2pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC One)

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Team News: There are two new caps in the Ireland team to play Scotland in the RBS 6 Nations at Murrayfield on Sunday afternoon.

Paddy Jackson, who captained the Ireland Under-20s in last season’s Championship, and Luke Marshall, who starred in November’s non-cap international against Fiji, will make their full international debuts at out-half and centre respectively.

The Ireland team contains a strong mix of youth and experience and shows several changes to the side which started the recent 12-6 defeat to England.

Keith Earls will take over on the left wing from the injured Simon Zebo, joining full-back Rob Kearney and Craig Gilroy in an exciting back-three.

With Jonathan Sexton and Gordon D’Arcy also ruled out through injury, Ulster youngsters Jackson and Marshall (both 21) will make the step up at half-back and in midfield.

In the pack, Tom Court returns to the front row alongside Rory Best, who wins his 65th cap at hooker, and Mike Ross.

Donncha O’Callaghan will line out for his 93rd cap alongside Donnacha Ryan in the second row. O’Callaghan will be taking over from Malcolm O’Kelly (92 caps) as Ireland’s most-capped lock.

Among the replacements Luke Fitzgerald makes a return to the international squad, while Iain Henderson and Devin Toner have also been included on the bench.

Speaking about his two new back-line colleagues, Brian O’Driscoll commented: “The proof will be in the pudding when they get out there, but they’re confident guys. I certainly don’t envisage either of them freezing. They’ve played in big games.

“They’re going to be big game players and lots of players have been dropped into the deep end of Six Nations rugby and survived. I’d imagine they’ll survive as well with no problems whatsoever.

“I’ll try and help the guys along, offering information to Paddy and Luke. Sometimes when you come into the set-up it’s hard to be vocal and start dominating things, but you need that from your out-half.

“The more accustomed they are to being in that situation, the more confident they will be when it comes to ordering people around. I’ll try to take a little bit of pressure off them this weekend.”

Meanwhile, Edinburgh prop Geoff Cross returns to the Scotland starting line-up for this weekend’s Championship meeting with Ireland.

Geoff Cross, who scored a try against New Zealand in his last start for Scotland, is the only change to the team that started the 34-10 victory over Italy earlier this month.

Cross comes in at tighthead prop for Euan Murray, who is unavailable for this weekend’s match as a result of his Christian faith.

Meanwhile on the replacements bench, Dougie Hall has recovered from the knee injury that he sustained against England and is restored as the Scots’ reserve hooker.

His Glasgow Warriors team-mate, prop Jon Welsh, also wins a place on the bench, his first involvement in a matchday 23 since he returned home early from last summer’s tour to the South Pacific to undergo shoulder surgery.

Alastair Kellock will become the 34th Scot to reach the landmark of 50 caps for his country if he is introduced from the bench.

Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson said: “We have to improve on our last game and that’s been our theme at training all week.

“I make no apology for saying again that we have to step up our work in the contact area. Yes, we’ve some talented athletes in the squad, but we have to give them the opportunities.

“It’s good to see players challenging for selection – and there are a number consistently putting their hands up, which is exactly what we want to see.

“But we’ve kept changes to a minimum and are saying to the players, ‘You’ve won one game. Now go out show us you can win another’.”

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Tim Visser (Edinburgh); Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh); Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Sale Sharks), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), Robert Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Kelly Brown (Saracens) (capt), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier).

Replacements: Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), David Denton (Edinburgh), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors), Max Evans (Castres Olympique).

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Craig Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster), Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster/54) (capt).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Dungannon/Ulster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Jerome Garces (France), Greg Garner (England)
Television Match Official: Eric Gauzins (France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scotland to win: 11/8; Draw: 20/1; Ireland to win: 4/6

Pre-Match Quotes: Keith Earls (Ireland) – “Brian (O’Driscoll), Rob (Kearney) and myself are the oldest in the back-line for Sunday – it’s a bit weird alright being only 25 but one of the oldest.

“It’s exciting times now, though not so good for me being one of the old lads! It’s great to see young lads coming through. The future is really bright and everyone’s buzzing.

“The young fellas are keeping us on our toes and bringing a fearless attitude into the game, which is great. The squad has changed a lot since I first came in. Before the team never changed much.

“If the players aren’t performing it is put on his (Deccie’s) head, but we’re all in it together. We’re really positive. We had a great win against Wales and lots of errors against England.

“Having got back to 6-6 it was very frustrating. When we did the review we saw we had 30 turnovers while England had 10. We’ll stick at it and play for each other. All the games now are make or break.

“We’ve got a tough test ahead of us. Scotland are on a high and are performing well. They have a few new faces so are playing positive rugby.

“The Championship is definitely there to be won as there are a lot of big games left to play. It’s still wide open.”

Duncan Hodge (Scotland) – “Historically we’ve been up and down and we’ve got to perform in front of the home crowd. We need to do the same stuff that we did last week (against Italy) but we need to do it better.

“We expect the players to step up a level, one game isn’t good enough. Every game is tougher than the last, if you stand still you’re gone.

“We’ve got good players and we are trying to work out what makes test matches tick and what are the fundamentals of unlocking the best in our players.

“And on the back of that we have scored tries which is great and breeds confidence but what we’ve got to do is back that up week after week.

“Ireland have lost a couple of players but they’re still an excellent side. We’ve got to back up how we perform and whichever side Ireland field they will be an extremely good side.

“We’re not after playing well for one game. We’ve got to keep moving on, we want to play better than we did last week and keep improving. It’s not about highs and lows, as coaches we’re picking up on bad points and reinforcing the good points.”

Pre-Match Links –

Irish Rugby TV: Declan Kidney

Irish Rugby TV: Mike Ross

Irish Rugby TV: Behind The Scenes With Quinny

Head-To-Head: Scotland v Ireland

Jackson Excited By Edinburgh Opportunity

What Are The Odds?

Recent Meetings –

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
2012: RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 32 Scotland 14, Aviva Stadium

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