Both teams have made several changes ahead of this Murrayfield match-up – find out all you need to know here

Six Nations Scotland v Ireland Preview

If the stats are anything to go by this Six Nations match at BT Murrayfield should be a fast-paced one – unlike the bus that took Ireland to the stadium two years ago and arrived late!

Ireland and Scotland both registered the quickest ruck speeds in round one – 3.54 and 3.59 seconds respectively. Expect both teams to be looking for the holy grail of quick ball, although they are likely to use it differently.

The hosts will want to get the ball to their dangerous outside backs, using those running threats in the wide channels to cause Ireland’s defence problems. Stuart Hogg will pick lines off Finn Russell, eyeing where he can make most metres, while Tommy Seymour and Sean Maitland on the wings are excellent finishers.

Scotland will be looking for space not contact because they will not want to get caught in a gain-line battle against an Ireland XV that weighs on average 3kg more per player. Instead, they will want to stretch the defending champions left and right before those gaps open up.

Ireland, in contrast, will want to use that size advantage to make yards at close quarters, using the likes of Sean O’Brien, Tadhg Furlong and Jack Conan to punch holes and draw in defenders to those contact areas before capitalising on space by either spreading the ball wide or kicking behind.

Six Nations Scotland v Ireland preview

Power game: Sean O’Brien will be a key ball-carrier for the Irish (Getty Images)

Half-backs Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will be disappointed with how ineffective their lauded aerial strategy was against England last weekend so will be aiming to test the Scottish back three with contestable kicks.


Joe Schmidt’s team are under more pressure than they have been for a while after that defeat by England, observers criticising their rigid game plan, and the Murrayfield crowd will surely make life uncomfortable for them, but the visitors will be cheered by the way Scotland allowed Italy back into the game with their ill-discipline in the last 15 minutes of their opening fixture.

The Scots already had such a healthy lead that the three late tries didn’t affect the result – but switch off in the same manner against Ireland and they are likely to pay a heavier price.

The visitors would love nothing more than a succession of penalties allowing them to take territorial advantage and squeeze the Scots with their set-pieces, while Scotland have that X-factor with Russell and Hogg leading the attack.

It is something of a clash of styles: off the cuff v straight-laced.

What’s the big team news?

Sean Maitland replaces last week’s hat-trick hero Blair Kinghorn on the left wing, his experience getting him the nod as the Scots field a familiar back three in preparation for an aerial assault from Ireland.

Six Nations Scotland v Ireland preview

Winging in: Fit-again Sean Maitland starts ahead of Blair Kinghorn (Getty Images)

Up front, tighthead WP Nel and flanker Sam Skinner were ruled out by injury and are replaced by Simon Berghan and Josh Strauss respectively. Jonny Gray, who has recovered from a shoulder injury, also comes into the starting line-up, with Ben Toolis dropping to the bench.

Scotland fans will also be pleased to see Fraser Brown fit to be named among the replacements, the hooker sure to offer a dynamic presence if he takes the field.

Ireland have made five changes to their starting XV – four of them injury-enforced. Rob Kearney comes in at full-back for Robbie Henshaw and Chris Farrell replaces Garry Ringrose at outside-centre.

Quinn Roux starts in place of Devin Toner and Jack Conan wears the No 8 shirt in CJ Stander’s absence.

The other change in the back row sees Sean O’Brien picked ahead of Josh van der Flier, who moves to the bench.

Six Nations Scotland v Ireland preview

On your marks: Chris Farrell and Quinn Roux start for Ireland (Getty Images)

What have the coaches said?

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend: “It’s massive. It’s probably the biggest challenge we’ll face in the Guinness Six Nations, given the way Ireland have been playing in the last few years.

“They will test us in a number of areas – defensively, set-piece, attack and kicking game. It is a challenge our players relish taking on.”

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt: “You can expect people to be saying a lot about how we play, and what Plan A, B, C or D looks like. I think we have a very varied game. We play strong off set-piece, we play a varied kicking game, we play with a varied attacking game. And we try to vary our defensive game.”

Any interesting statistics?

  • Home sides have won six of the last seven Six Nations meetings between these two teams.
  • Ireland’s starting XV has 200 more caps-worth of experience than Scotland’s – 706 compared to 475. Looking purely at the forward packs, Ireland’s has nearly twice as many caps as the hosts – 368 to 199.
  • Scotland conceded more than twice as many penalties as Ireland in round one – 11 to four.
  • Six of the top 12 ball-carriers last weekend were Irish – Jacob Stockdale, James Ryan, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and CJ Stander.
  • Scotland made more metres (819) and line breaks (five) than any other team in this year’s first round.
Six Nations Scotland v Ireland preview

Key figure: Josh Strauss impressed off the bench against Italy (Getty Images)

What time does it kick off and is it on TV?

Scotland v Ireland, Saturday 8 February, BT Murrayfield

The first game of round two kicks off at 2.15pm in Edinburgh and is live on BBC One and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, as well as TV3 and RTE radio in Ireland.

Romain Poite is the referee for this match – coincidentally he also took charge of the 2017 game between these two sides that Scotland won – and is assisted by fellow Frenchmen Pascal Gauzere and Alexandre Ruiz. England’s Rowan Kitt is the TMO.

What are the line-ups?

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain); Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson, Jamie Ritchie, Josh Strauss.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, D’arcy Rae, Ben Toolis, Rob Harley, Ali Price, Pete Horne, Blair Kinghorn.

IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong, Quinn Roux, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, John Cooney, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.

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