All the details you need for this fourth-round fixture at BT Murrayfield in the 2021 championship

Six Nations Scotland v Ireland Preview

The final Six Nations match of the weekend should provide Warren Gatland with plenty to ponder.

The British & Irish Lions coach will be a keen observer on Sunday afternoon, with key head-to-heads across the pitch at BT Murrayfield. Finn Russell v Johnny Sexton at fly-half is probably the headline contest – Sexton has said of his opposite number “he has a full box of tricks” – but there are others too.

Six Nations Scotland v Ireland Preview

James Ryan wins lineout ball ahead of Jonny Gray (Sportsfile/Getty Images)

Take Jonny Gray and James Ryan in the second row. Ireland have stolen more lineouts (five) than any other team so far in this championship – can Gray and Scott Cummings ensure clean ball for the Scots? Or will Ryan and Iain Henderson disrupt and create counter-attack opportunities?

Tadhg Beirne is another influential figure in that Irish lineout as well as at the breakdown, which should be another intriguing battle.

Beirne and Will Connors bustle around the contact area in their bright blue scrum caps, but Hamish Watson is adept at turnovers and Jamie Ritchie is a real nuisance at close quarters too. Whoever can deliver the quicker ball to their back-line on Sunday afternoon is likely to play a deciding factor in who wins the match.

Rory Sutherland could enhance his Lions claims at loosehead if he can continue Scotland’s progress at scrum time and cause Tadhg Furlong problems. Garry Ringrose missed out on Lions selection in 2017 but a few breaks through a Scotland defence that has missed only 17 tackles in their two games to date (for a comparison, France missed 43 in their opening two fixtures) would put him in the frame for 2021.

Of course, it’s not all about Lions! Scotland, who haven’t played for a month after the match against France was postponed, are hoping to end their five-Test losing run against the Irish. Ireland want another win as they aim for the top half of the championship table.

Here’s what else you need to know about Scotland v Ireland…

What’s the big team news?

Jamie Ritchie is fit to start in the Scotland back row having missed the Wales game while WP Nel comes in for the banned Zander Fagerson. Sean Maitland replaces Darcy Graham on the wing and Chris Harris has a third centre partner in as many games, with Sam Johnson wearing No 12 for this match.

Midfield has long been something of a conundrum for the Scots. Cameron Redpath looked destined to be their inside-centre long-term after his performance against England but injury has stalled his progress.

Ireland have bolstered their front row with the return of Cian Healy and Rob Herring to the starting line-up having been on the bench for the Italy win. Keith Earls also comes in for Jordan Larmour on the wing, meaning arguably the two best broken-field runners – Larmour and Scotland’s Darcy Graham – start on the bench.

What have the coaches said?

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend: “Playing Ireland is always a physical affair and one that demands you keep stepping up to make tackles or contest for possession.

“They have played well in their opening three games of the championship and have some outstanding players in their squad. It should be a cracking game.”

Ireland coach Andy Farrell: “I think Scotland’s strength is their belief. They 100% believe they are on an upward curve and rightly so because we have seen some really good performances from them.

“We always find it difficult against Scotland and we are always quite proud of any victory against the Scots.”

What are the odds?

Ireland are slight favourites for this match, with odds of 3-4 on Bet365. A Scotland win is 6-5 or you can get odds of 22-1 on a draw.

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Any interesting statistics?

  • Ireland No 8 CJ Stander will win his 50th cap.
  • Tadhg Beirne (five) and Iain Henderson (four) had won the most turnovers after three games, but Hamish Watson was third on the list with three in just two games.
  • Scotland haven’t beaten Ireland since 2017, when they won 27-22 at Murrayfield. Five of the starting XV that day will also start this match – Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Jonny Gray and Hamish Watson.
  • Six of the top seven carriers in the championship before this weekend were Irish – CJ Stander, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan, Tadhg Beirne and James Lowe.

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

Scotland v Ireland, Sunday 14 March, BT Murrayfield

The final game of round four kicks off at 3pm in Edinburgh and is live on BBC1 and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, as well as Virgin Media and RTE radio in Ireland.

Romain Poite is referee for this match and is assisted by fellow Frenchman Mathieu Raynal as well as Italy’s Andrea Pardi. Alex Ruiz (France) is the TMO.

What are the line-ups?

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg (captain); Sean Maitland, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, George Turner, WP Nel, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: David Cherry, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Nick Haining, Scott Steele, Huw Jones, Darcy Graham.

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jordan Larmour.

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