Six Nations 2017: Scotland's Laidlaw certain Ireland will cope with Sexton injury

By David CurrieBBC Scotland
Greig Laidlaw
Greig Laidlaw and the Scotland team are aiming to improve on the two Six Nations wins of 2016
Six Nations 2017
Dates: 4 February-18 March Coverage: BBC TV, Radio and online

Ireland have enough quality in reserve to cope with the absence of injured fly-half Johnny Sexton, Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw believes.

The visitors to Murrayfield on Saturday in the Six Nations opener are without Sexton and flanker Peter O'Mahony.

"Ireland will have known he's been struggling and will have been training to cover that," said Laidlaw.

"They have strength in depth in Paddy Jackson - that has been the key to Ireland's success."

Ireland also have Munster fly-half Ian Keatley as an able stand-in for Sexton, who Laidlaw described as "a quality player".

However, the Gloucester scrum-half insisted the Leinster man's absence would not affect the approach of a confident Scotland squad, many of whose members, he said, have been buoyed by their performances in Europe for Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh.

"The coaches have done some in-depth analysis and we have a game plan that we think can give us the best chance of winning," said Laidlaw.

"We've got a really good feeling within the group and we've been developing our skills under [head coach] Vern [Cotter]. We're excited but we've got our feet firmly fixed on the floor.

Scotland in the 2017 Six Nations
Saturday, 4 February, 14:25 GMT: Scotland v Ireland
Sunday, 12 February, 15:00 GMT: France v Scotland
Saturday, 25 February, 14:25 GMT: Scotland v Wales
Saturday, 11 March, 16:00 GMT: England v Scotland
Saturday, 18 March, 12:30 GMT: Scotland v Italy

"There is definitely more about the group, for sure, but the proof is in the results and the performances.

"We're not looking any further than the first game. It's imperative you get off to a good start and traditionally Scotland haven't.

"It's at Murrayfield, it's a sell-out crowd and we're hugely excited about it. The fans are really starting to connect with this team.

"Last year I felt we made strides forward, we won two games in the Championship and we want to win more than that this year. It is a really tough competition."

Laidlaw identified stifling Ireland's chances from set plays as being key to Scotland's hopes.

"They base their game on possession, keep hold of the ball, try to get penalties and try to get field position from them," he added.

"They like to launch their game from line-outs in our half so we need to be squeaky clean, make no mistakes and don't give them a platform to launch off."

Meanwhile, Scotland prop Willem Nel, who had already been ruled out of the Six Nations, has undergone surgery on a damaged intervertebral disc in his neck.

Nel has been out since picking up the injury in Edinburgh's win over Harlequins on 14 January.

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