Six Nations
Preview: Scotland v Ireland
Tristan Barclay
March 20, 2015
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Ireland saw their Grand Slam hopes dashed by a brutal Wales in Cardiff last weekend, with defeat dragging them into a four-way tussle for the championship. Both Wales and England will be challenging the men in green for their Six Nations crown, while even France are in with a shout if results go their way. By Saturday night, It will all come down to points difference, so victory at Murrayfield is not enough for Ireland - they will be after a big score too.

Their hosts Scotland, meanwhile, have a very different battle on their hands. Defeat by Ireland in Edinburgh will see Vern Cotter's new-look side end the tournament as whitewashed wooden spoon-holders. After an impressive Autumn, all the talk was of a Scotland team on the up heading into this World Cup year. Following four straight defeats this Spring, that optimism has long since evaporated. A rare win would bring welcome relief for Scotland's long-suffering fans and would

Team news

Scotland have made two changes to the starting XV that lost to England, with two of last weekend's replacements promoted from the bench. 21-year-old Adam Ashe will start in place of blindside flanker Rob Harley, while Ryan Grant supplants Alasdair Dickinson in the front row.

Saturday's Test will also be an historic occasion for prop Euan Murray, who will overtake Allan Jacobsen's Scotland record for appearances by a prop forward, claiming his 66th cap. The backs division is unchanged, with the likes of Stuart Hogg and Mark Bennett trusted to show the same spark they did at Twickenham.

In the Ireland ranks, Luke Fitzgerald will win his first Test start in four years as Joe Schmidt also makes two changes to the side that went down to Wales last Saturday. The Leinster wing has battled chronic groin problems in the last two years, but will replace Simon Zebo for his first Test action since November 2013. The other change is in the front-row, with British & Irish Lions prop Cian Healy winning his first Six Nations start after dislodging Jack McGrath, who drops to the bench.

Key head-to-head

Ireland have experience and quality to beat Scotland man-for-man in just about every position on the field, but an area uncertainty for both sides is the midfield. Robbie Henshaw admitted on Wednesday there was still "more to come" from his partnership with Jared Payne, with the duo boasting just 14 Ireland caps between them. Scotland's centre options, on the other hand, were dealt a blow last week when Alex Dunbar suffered a serious knee injury in training. The Glasgow man was replaced by Matt Scott, who lined up alongside 22-year-old Mark Bennett for the clash against England. Their joint tally of 29 caps means Scotland's is the senior partnership, but only just.

Key Stats

*Scotland have lost their last four Six Nations matches, but have not lost five Tests in a row since 2012.

*Ireland have not lost successive Six Nations away games in the same season since 2008.

*Scotland's Blair Cowan has won the most turnovers in the tournament this season with seven, while Ireland are the top ball carriers with 574 carries over the first four rounds.


Ireland to lead at both half-time and full-time is a fairly safe bet at 4/7 with Unibet, while Scotland are 31/10 to cause an upset at Murrayfield.


This really could go either way. We're expecting a perfect afternoon for rugby, with light cloud and temperatures around eight degrees celsius. However, there's heavy rain due around 6pm, so if that arrives early, things could get a little slippery.


Ireland need to win by a big margin and, despite a decent performance against England last weekend, Scotland haven't done enough to convince anyone they can spring an upset. However, Vern Cotter's men are yet to be on the end of a thrashing, so we're expecting Ireland to claim victory by a modest 10 points.

Jamie Heaslip is set to equal David Wallace's record as Ireland's most-capped back-row © Getty Images
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