Ireland take on Scotland on Saturday afternoon in their final match of 2020 and will aim to end what has been a mediocre year on a high.
Both Ireland and Scotland have named their strongest available match-day squads for the Autumn Nations Cup third place play off at the Aviva Stadium.
📸 𝗖𝗮𝗽𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻’𝘀 𝗥𝘂𝗻 🟢
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) December 4, 2020
Below are the key match ups where the game will likely be won and lost.
Jacob Stockdale vs Stuart Hogg
Andy Farrell made a bold call when selecting Stockdale at 15 after his shaky performance in Paris, but the Ulsterman proved he offers plenty in attack from deep against Georgia.
The Scotland captain will be sure to test Stockdale with a number of long-range kicks but is more than able to break the Irish defensive line and set up a one-on-one with his opposite man.
While Stockdale looks to be growing accustomed to the 15 shirt for Ireland, it’s hard to see past Hogg having the upper hand for fullback supremacy.
Johnny Sexton vs Jaco van der Walt
Gregor Townsend has handed South African-born van der Walt his international debut in what promises to be a baptism of fire for the Edinburgh fly-half.
While van der Walt has been in fine form for Edinburgh ever since he joined them in 2017, this weekend should prove to be a major step up for the 26-year old.
Sexton returns to the starting lineup after sitting out Ireland’s last two games injured and will be eager to get his side back to form after a disappointing couple of performances.
While he may be slightly rusty, expect Sexton to use his experience and game management skills to steer the match away from van der Walt on his debut.
Caelan Doris vs Matt Fagerson
There are plenty of similarities between the two starting number 8s, with both men only 22 years old, with Doris having six caps to his name and Fagerson having seven.
Both men look likely to have long international careers ahead of them, but Doris seems to be Ireland’s undisputed first-choice number 8 right now, while the jury is still out on Fagerson.
The Glasgow Warrior has started in two of Scotland’s four test matches this autumn and can’t quite seem to lock down the 8 jersey as of yet.
Doris looks to be better suited to international rugby at the moment but Fagerson will know that a dominant display on Saturday could see him retain the 8 jersey ahead of next year’s Six Nations.
James Ryan vs Jonny Gray
Arguably the closest match up in store on Saturday as the two towering second rowers are set to lock horns again on the international stage.
Both men have been absolutely indispensable to their sides since making their debuts and promise to be at the top of their game for many more years to come.
Ryan will be eager to prove he is a reliable target for Rob Herring at lineout time after Maro Itoje disrupted more than a few throws in the game against England, something Gray will look to replicate.
Both locks are workhorses in the loose, so don’t be surprised if both men are topping the leaderboards in terms of carries or tackles made at the end of the game.