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RBS 6 Nations Preview: Scotland v Ireland

RBS 6 Nations Preview: Scotland v Ireland

Ireland venture to Murrayfield this Sunday as they try to get their RBS 6 Nations challenge back on track against winless Scotland. Brian O’Driscoll and his team-mates will want to banish memories of last year’s defeat at Croke Park.

2011 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Sunday, February 27

SCOTLAND (5th) v IRELAND (4th), Murrayfield, 3pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC Two)

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Team News: The Ireland team to play Scotland in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at Murrayfield on Sunday has been named.

There are three changes to the team from the last outing against France, and all of those changes are in the back-line.

Tommy Bowe has recovered from the knee injury that ruled him out of the first two games of the Championship and is named on the right wing in place of Fergus McFadden.

There is a change at out-half with Ronan O’Gara coming into the team to win his 106th cap for Ireland and Jonathan Sexton moving to the replacements bench.

Tomas O’Leary has been ruled out due to a back injury, so Eoin Reddan comes into the side at scrum half and Peter Stringer is named on the bench.

Donncha O’Callaghan will start in the second row where he will win his 70th cap for Ireland, while Brian O’Driscoll will captain the team for the 73rd time.

Head coach Declan Kidney said: “The boys have trained well between last Thursday in Cork and yesterday and today (in Dublin).

“Tomas was training with us. He pulled up with a sore back, so that was the only last-minute issue that cropped up.

“Tommy (Bowe) came through the 80 minutes (for the Ospreys last weekend), he came through it well. He’s been able to train full out with us. He’s be going well this week and obviously he brings his own wealth of experience into the side.

“Ronan’s form has been good. He deserves a game. Jonathan has done really well for us in the matches in November and the two Six Nations games to date.

“They’ll both play for Ireland again. I just felt that it was right to play Ronan in this game.”

Meanwhile, Scotland head coach Andy Robinson has made seven changes in personnel and a further positional switch for Sunday’s clash.

From the Scotland team that lost to Wales at Murrayfield, Hugo Southwell and Joe Ansbro had already been ruled out through injury.

Also omitted are half-backs Dan Parks and Rory Lawson, prop Euan Murray, lock Nathan Hines and number 8 Richie Vernon.

They are replaced respectively by Scotland’s most capped player Chris Paterson, Sean Lamont, Ruaridh Jackson, who will be making his first start for Scotland as he wins his fourth cap, Mike Blair, Moray Low, Richie Gray and Johnnie Beattie.

Gray is back after missing the Wales game through illness, while his Glasgow Warriors team-mate Beattie has recovered from shoulder surgery.

Beattie scored Scotland’s only try scorer in their 23-23 win over Ireland at Croke Park last March.

The positional switch sees Nick De Luca move from inside to outside centre. On the replacements bench, Geoff Cross and Ulster’s Simon Danielli are involved in a Scotland matchday 22 for the first time this year.

Head coach Andy Robinson is urging his squad to ‘restore the pride in all Scotland supporters’ after the disappointing 24-6 defeat to Wales.

“We have made changes with a view to securing our first win of the competition and giving our supporters the lift that they deserve,” he said.

“We know that Ireland will bring their own distinct physicality and guile to Murrayfield on Sunday and it is up to our squad to front up to that challenge.

“We must play with belief and eliminate the mistakes which have bedevilled us in our opening two games and we must produce a performance that restores the pride in all Scotland supporters.”

SCOTLAND: Chris Paterson (Edinburgh); Nikki Walker (Ospreys), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Sean Lamont (Scarlets), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors); Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Mike Blair (Edinburgh); Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) (capt), Kelly Brown (Saracens), John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Johnnie Beattie (Glasgow Warriors).

Replacements: Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Nathan Hines (Leinster), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Dan Parks (Cardiff Blues), Simon Danielli (Ulster).

IRELAND: Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Keith Earls (Thomond/Munster); Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster).

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Small (England), Pascal Gauzere (France)
Television Match Official: Graham Hughes (England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scotland to win: 15/8; Draw: 22/1; Ireland to win: 4/9

Pre-Match Quotes: Tommy Bowe (Ireland) – “I’ve only been only out since mid-January and it’s given me a bit of freshness back. I’ve played a lot of rugby over the last couple of years so it was nice to freshen the legs and mind.

“This is a difficult time of year because you play a lot of big matches over November and Christmas with the internationals and Heineken Cup.

“While it was frustrating not to be playing, I believe that in the long run it will be good for me.

“We want to be coming off a good campaign going into the World Cup, so first and foremost we want to win.

“But at the same time we want to know that we are able to take on the best teams in the world and play the type of rugby that will put them under pressure.

“When the small errors creep in, I suppose it does get into your head a little bit, but it’s not something we’re worried about.

“We play enough rugby and have dropped enough balls in training over the years that it shouldn’t really transfer into a game.

“But there are a lot of positives we can take out of the campaign so far. We are spreading the ball a bit and teams are looking a bit ragged.

“To be able to score three tries against France is very positive. There were also times in the Italy match where if we could have held on to the ball and not coughed it up in key areas of the pitch, we definitely would have scored more tries.

“Scotland have big, strong runners in the back-line. Max Evans is good with the ball in hand. They’re playing at home and will be hurting from the first 20 minutes a fortnight ago when Wales really took it to them.

“They will be looking to start fast out of the blocks. It will be hugely physical. They have a great back row and you need to be careful of their offloading game when their tails are up.”

Alastair Kellock (Scotland) – “It’s important we’re spot on with what we’re doing in the first 15, 20 minutes, playing in the right places, defending well and continuing to defend well throughout the game.

“The intensity of training has gone up, we’re putting ourselves under pressure on the back pitches, knowing that we’ll be under severe pressure on Sunday.

“Ireland’s rrecord is good, it speaks for itself, and shows how good a team Ireland are. If we’re at our best we can win the game, but we need to be right up there.

“People have asked me how I am getting the guys up for this game after Wales, but that’s one thing I don’t have to worry too much about.

“I believe that the mental side is as important as the physical preparation for a game, but watching the guys in meetings and on the training park this week I have absolutely no doubt about their commitment and mental focus for putting things right.

“The Wales performance adds to the motivation, but the focus since Monday has been on how we take on the Irish, where we expose their weaknesses and how we show our strengths and make them count.

“There are lessons to learn from the opening matches against France and Wales, not least retaining ball and improving the physicality we have to bring to the breakdown, and we have worked hard on the set piece, looked closely at the scrum with a new tighthead coming in and working together as an eight, and the lineout.

“The Irish and French will have the best defensive lineouts in the Championship and after beating them there last year at Croke Park they will be pretty focused on not letting us dominate anything again. That is a challenge myself and Richie Gray are particularly looking forward to rising to.”

Pre-Match Links –

Irish Rugby TV: Gordon D’Arcy

Heaslip: We’ll Cause Problems For Scots

Head-To-Head: Scotland v Ireland

O’Driscoll Predicts ‘Tough, Competitive Test Match’

Kidney: Breakdown Is Pivotal Area

Recent Meetings –

2008: RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 34 Scotland 13, Croke Park
2009: RBS 6 Nations: Scotland 15 Ireland 22, Murrayfield
2010: RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 20 Scotland 23, Croke Park