Six Nations 2014: Ireland v Scotland preview

Brian O'Driscoll

SIX NATIONS: Ireland v Scotland

Venue:
Aviva Stadium
Date:
Sunday, 2 February
Kick-off:
15:00 GMT
Coverage:
Watch live on BBC One, BBC One HD, mobiles and online from 14:30 GMT; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live; text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles

MATCH PREVIEW

As both these sides know, the opening game of a Six Nations is not always an accurate indicator of fortunes for the rest of the tournament.

Last year, Ireland buzzed into life with an impressive victory at the home of the eventual winners Wales, while Scotland were sent tumbling against England at Twickenham. But, particularly for the Irish, it proved a false dawn.

The end result was quite different, as Ireland suffered three defeats - picking up injuries to several players including Jonny Sexton and Simon Zebo along the way - while Scotland found their feet to post a third-place finish.

Ireland's response was to remove Declan Kidney from his post and replace him with Joe Schmidt. A mixed autumn under the former Leinster boss followed, with glimpses of progress, particularly in a heartbreaking, thrilling encounter against New Zealand at the end of the series which suggested the message was getting across.

For Scotland, Scott Johnson's project was all about development, laying the foundations for the arrival of Clermont boss Vern Cotter later this year. Again there were some high points, including the debut of Tim Swinson, and Sean Maitland's stock continued to rise, but line-out failure and a scoreless thumping by South Africa suggested there is work to do if they are to repeat their 2013 efforts.

Brian O'Driscoll's record 129th cap for Ireland should ensure the home crowd provide a suitably raucous atmosphere in the opening game of his final campaign. Whether the Scots will share the same sentiment before and during the match is another story.

MATCH FACTS

Head-to-head

  • Scotland have won 66 of 128 Test matches against Ireland, who have 57 victories.
  • Greig Laidlaw kicked all of Scotland's 12 points in their 12-8 victory last year; his uncle Roy has scored six tries against Ireland, more than any other Scottish international.
  • Ireland ended last year's Six Nations encounter at Murrayfield with 71% possession and 77% territory but still lost.
  • Scotland have not won at Lansdowne Road - the site of the Aviva Stadium - since February 1998. Their last win on Irish soil came at Croke Park in March 2010 - their last Six Nations away win, and their only one since 2006 - while the old Lansdowne Road was being refurbished.

Ireland

  • Brian O'Driscoll will become Ireland's most capped player of all time against Scotland - he is currently level with Ronan O'Gara on 128 caps. Having also played eight Lions Tests, O'Driscoll needs three more caps after Sunday to eclipse former Australia scrum-half George Gregan's all-time record of 139.
  • Since returning to the refurbished Lansdowne Road/Aviva Stadium in November 2010, Ireland have won only seven of 18 Tests at home, only three of which came in the Six Nations.
  • Racing Metro half-back Jonny Sexton is only eight points short of overhauling Michael Kiernan in the all-time points scorers list. Kiernan is currently third with 308 points, with Sexton fourth on 301.
  • Fergus McFadden, Rory Best, Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip are all two tries away from double figures for Ireland (eight career tries apiece).

Scotland

  • Scotland have not won their opening match of a Six Nations campaign since beating France at Murrayfield in February 2006.
  • The Scots have failed to win away on the opening weekend since beating Ireland at Lansdowne Road in February 1998.
  • Last year's tournament was Scotland's best placing since 2006 - when they last finished third.
  • 11 of the 23 players named by Scott Johnson - and nine of the starting line-up - are from Glasgow Warriors.
  • Sean Lamont needs one try to equal Kenny Logan's record of 13 career Test scores for Scotland and move into joint-eighth place in the list.

TEAM NEWS & LINE-UPS

Injuries mean changes across the Ireland three-quarter line, with Andrew Trimble brought in on the left, and Dave Kearney switching to the right in Tommy Bowe's absence. Gordon D'Arcy is replaced by Luke Marshall.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has kept faith with the majority of his forward pack, notably with Cian Healy overcoming injury to feature. The only change comes in the back row where Chris Henry covers Sean O'Brien at open-side flanker.

Scotland make four changes to the side that lost to Australia in the autumn. Stuart Hogg, fit again after a wrist operation, comes in at full-back with Sean Maitland moved to wing in place of Tommy Seymour. Alex Dunbar comes into the centres for Nick De Luca.

In the pack, Grant Gilchrist misses out in favour of Tim Swinson and Ryan Wilson takes blind-side flanker ahead of Johnnie Beattie, who has a place on the bench.

Ireland: 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Andrew Trimble, 13-Brian O'Driscoll, 12-Luke Marshall, 11-Dave Kearney, 10-Jonny Sexton, 9-Conor Murray; 1-Cian Healy, 2-Rory Best, 3-Mike Ross, 4-Devin Toner, 5-Paul O'Connell, 6-Peter O'Mahony, 7-Chris Henry, 8-Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: 16-Sean Cronin, 17-Jack McGrath, 18-Martin Moore, 19-Dan Tuohy, 20-Tommy O'Donnell, 21-Issac Boss, 22-Paddy Jackson; 23. Fergus McFadden

Scotland: 15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Sean Maitland, 13-Alex Dunbar, 12-Duncan Taylor, 11-Sean Lamont, 10-Duncan Weir, 9-Greig Laidlaw; 1-Ryan Grant, 2-Ross Ford, 3-Moray Low, 4-Tim Swinson, 5-Jim Hamilton, 6-Ryan Wilson, 7-Kelly Brown, 8-David Denton

Replacements: 16-Pat MacArthur, 17-Alaistair Dickinson, 18-Geoff Cross, 19-Richie Gray, 20-Johnnie Beattie, 21-Chris Cusiter, 22-Matt Scott; 23-Max Evans

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Touch judges: Jaco Peyper (South Africa) and Mike Fraser (New Zealand)

TV: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

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