Ireland face Scotland in the Six Nations this weekend – knowing that victory over Gregor Townsend’s side would propel them within 80 minutes of a potentially historic Grand Slam win on St Patrick’s Day.
Scotland however, are no pushovers – defeating reigning champions England 25-13 on their last outing, and they travel to Dublin in the knowledge that they can beat anybody on their day.
Within these two teams are a number of talents who can turn a game on its head in an instant – and with this in mind, we’ve compiled a combined XV of Scottish and Irish superstars.
When it comes to the battle on Saturday, these men will more than have their say.
1. Cian Healy – Ireland
The Leinster prop has had an excellent campaign so far, making some important carries whilst also crossing the try-line against Wales. His experience has often been called upon, and he never fails to deliver in a green shirt.
2. Stuart McInally – Scotland
The Edinburgh man has been in excellent form as of late, carrying with ease and power against England, while he also leaves every blade of grass covered, be it in defence or attack. A prized asset for any side, due to his brilliance in the lineout and scrum.
3. Tadhg Furlong – Ireland
On his day, Furlong is quite simply one of the best in the business. Powerful, reliable and a complete workhorse – his return to the team could prove crucial for Ireland on Saturday.
4. Devin Toner- Ireland
Toner keeps his place in the team despite Iain Henderson returning from injury. Ireland struggled in the lineout at Murrayfield last year and Toner will be tasked with rectifying it this weekend.
5. Jonny Gray – Scotland
An endless tank of stamina, Gray gives it everything for 80 minutes in a Scotland jersey – his performance against England recently was phenomenal, as he put in an endless amount of tackles, and there are very few finer players in his position. A leader among the charges.
6. Peter O’Mahony – Ireland
A picture of both endless talent and experience. His line-out ability is second to none, and his power gives Ireland a basis to secure and maintain possession at the right moments. Mr Reliable for his country.
7. John Barclay – Scotland
Like O’Mahony, Barclay is an excellent jumper – and the Scarlets flanker is a born leader. He leads by example when driving forward, and his ability to turn over possession is invaluable to the Scots.
8. CJ Stander – Ireland
One of the best ball-carriers in the game of rugby, Stander possesses incredible speed and power for a forward. The yardage he makes is often significant, and when on form, his performances can make the telling difference.
9. Conor Murray – Ireland
Fastly enhancing his claims for the title of the world’s best scrum-half, Murray is agile, quick-thinking and possesses skill in abundance. Finds the perfect pass without fail, and often able to find the gap all on his own – he is crucial to Ireland’s hopes of success.
10. Jonathan Sexton – Ireland
Be it with boot or ball in hand, Sexton has a telling influence on the scoreboard in almost every game he plays. The Leinster man has laid on some wonderful passes and kicked important scores so far in this tournament. Composed and vastly experienced, he could be the man to spearhead Ireland to the title over the next fortnight.
11. Jacob Stockdale – Ireland
His international try-scoring record is simply phenomenal. Can drift out of games on occasion but pops up when it matters most, and he has landed some crucial scores for his country as of late – his potential sees him pip Sean Maitland to a starting spot.
12. Bundee Aki – Ireland
Has adapted seamlessly into Test rugby for Ireland. Tough in the tackle, impossible to bring down – as well as having incredible footwork for his size, Aki is a force to be reckoned with.
13. Huw Jones – Scotland
Times his runs to perfection and can link up well with Scotland’s backs – as seen against England. His line breaks make massive gains for his side, and Ireland will have problems dealing with him on current form.
14. Keith Earls – Ireland
May not be scoring as many tries as of late but he has made incredible bursts forward at times – and is crucial to the Irish cause. Fantastic under the high ball, he can be the spark that ignites change when the scores are locked.
15. Stuart Hogg – Scotland
Hogg pips Rob Kearney to the post here – due to his kicking ability, and versatility. He has won the Player of the Championship Award twice, which is testament to his talent. When Scotland tick, Hogg is normally the heartbeat of the team.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena