Having put in an improved attacking performance against Italy, Ireland will be eager to again impress against Scotland this Sunday.
Scotland will be expected to put up a better fight than they did when the two sides last met in the Autumn Nations Cup last year and they will be champing at the bit after their last game against France was postponed.
Andy Farrell won’t have as much room to experiment as he did against the Italians, but that shouldn’t stop him from selecting a team that emphasises attacking play.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 8, 2021
Below is the team that we think should take on Italy.
Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter
While Cian Healy has played well for Ireland in recent times, Kilcoyne does offer more in the loose and should have more than enough to deal with the Scottish front-row at scrum time.
Kelleher’s lineout throwing isn’t quite at the level that the Ireland coaches would like at the moment, but it’s hard to ignore the young Leinster hooker’s attacking ability.
Tadhg Furlong is pushing Porter for the role of Ireland’s starting tighthead prop, but Porter still deserves to start after his performances for country and province over the last year.
Iain Henderson and James Ryan
No changes in the second row from the Italy game as the two men have proven that they rarely, if ever, let down their country in the big games.
Ireland’s lock pairing will have their hands full with the likely Scottish second row of Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings, but Henderson and Ryan should just about have the edge on their counterparts.
Ireland’s lineout has been much improved this year and consistency in the second row should help the team continue to improve in that area.
Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors and CJ Stander
Same again in the back row, as the experiment of playing Beirne at six proved to be a success against Italy.
Both Beirne and Connors have fierce competition for their spots, with Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier breathing down their necks, but the two deserve their second start on the bounce.
In the absence of Caelan Doris, Stander remains the obvious choice at number eight for Ireland.
Jamison Gibson-Park and Johnny Sexton
While Gibson-Park is yet to prove that he can perform at his best against the top teams, he was largely responsible for Ireland’s improved attacking display in Rome.
While the Scottish defence will prove to be a sterner test for Ireland, the Leinster scrum-half’s quick delivery should give Sexton more time to decide what to do with the ball.
Conor Murray looks set to be fit for the game in Murrayfield and will provide an experienced option off the bench if needed.
Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose
Not a huge amount to be said here, really. Ireland’s centre pairing have been two of the team’s top performers in what has been an underwhelming Six Nations so far.
🤩 𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗠𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵 𝗪𝗲𝗲𝗸! 🟢
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 8, 2021
While the likes of Bundee Aki, Chris Farrell and Stuart McCloskey are all excellent players, it’s very hard to see a reason to drop either Henshaw or Ringrose.
Jacob Stockdale, Jordan Larmour and Hugo Keenan
Farrell’s preferred wing pairing of James Lowe and Keith Earls have perhaps been Ireland’s worst performers of the championship so far.
Lowe has shown some flashes of attacking ability but overall, he has been disappointing and hasn’t done enough to keep Stockdale out of the team on the Ulster winger’s return to the squad.
Earls did score a nice try in the final minute against Italy thanks to a sumptuous pass from Johnny Sexton but Larmour deserves another chance after coming off at half-time in Rome.
Keenan has been extremely consistent at full-back for Ireland and is now surely one of the first names on the team sheet each week.
Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne and Keith Earls
Should things go wrong for Ireland in the early stages of the game, Farrell should have bundles of experience to bring on to steady the ship against Scotland.
Baird did enough against Italy to warrant another cameo off the bench, while Jack Conan’s athleticism and powerful carries could create havoc in the Scottish defence late on.
Craig Casey impressed off the bench against Italy, but hasn’t got the calming ability or experience that Murray does should Ireland start to struggle against the Scots.