Match number two of what promises to be a super Saturday of RBS 6 Nations rugby action sees Ireland travel to Murrayfield to take on Scotland.
Joe Schmidt’s team, coming off the back of a defeat to Wales, must better England and Wales’ results and score more points if they are to win consecutive titles. They saw their Grand Slam dream dashed in Cardiff last week when a brilliant Welsh rear-guard kept the Irish attack at bay in the final minutes of the game. If they can react positively to that set-back, they will give themselves a chance.
Should the top three all win then it will come down to points difference. England have a four point advantage over the Irish on that front, so an attacking performance with disciplined defence will be absolutely crucial.
The Welsh defeat was a rare off day for Ireland talisman, fly-half Johnny Sexton. Normally so assured with the boot, Sexton made some uncharacteristic mistakes, giving Wales an unexpected form of relief. One of his great qualities however has been recovering when the chips are down, so if Scotland are expecting the same Johnny Sexton to arrive at Murrayfield then they may well be in for a rude awakening.
Scotland of course should not be treated as an obstacle to merely rack up points against. Against England they went in at half-time with a three point lead and going in to the final stages needed only a converted try to level the match. England may have been guilty of profligacy, but the Scots nearly made them pay with a pugnacious performance.
They are looking for their first win of the campaign, and will avoid the Wooden Spoon with a victory and an Italian defeat. The progress of autumn has not been converted into 6 Nations wins, but they have pushed England, France and Wales close in the tournament and will feel that as they head into summer and autumn that they are still making progress.
Recent trips to Edinburgh haven’t been kind to Ireland, with Scotland claiming victories in the last two matches played there. In fact, Scotland have won three of the last six games between the countries. Last season, however, Ireland ran out 28-6 winners at Croke Park with three tries sealing an opening day victory.
Gilbert Rugby ambassador Sean Cronin will look to add steal from the bench again for Ireland. Cronin has become Mr Reliable for his country and Saturday is sure to be no different. Follow Sean on Twitter
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