Ireland’s hunt for a 2023 Grand Slam took its next step as they arrived at Murrayfield to face a Scotland team that has rarely looked better this century. The visitors were able to welcome back a number of regulars in Tadhg Furlong, Jonathan Sexton and Garry Ringrose and thought that they had scored an early try after 5 minutes, when Caelan Doris stole a quick lineout on the Scottish 5m line, but Dan Sheehan’s dot down did not stand as Turner had not used the same ball as was kicked to touch, thereby negating a quick throw being allowed. Ireland soon got off the mark with a Jonathan Sexton penalty, but it came at the expense of Caelan Doris, who went off injured, while Scotland were also force to replace Richie Gray early on. Having survived early pressure, Scotland finally got their own chance to attack, and they soon took the lead as some soft hands from Sione Tuipulotu sent his fellow centre Huw Jones over for a try. Over the next 10 minutes, Ireland lost 2 more of their pack to injury in the form of Iain Henderson and Dan Sheehan, but they soon hit back with a try of their own as Mack Hansen managed to dive over in the corner, just keeping his body in paly as Duhan van der Merwe tried to push him into touch. Scotland tried to hit back immediately, but failed to convert their pressure into points as an incredible low tackle from Hugo Keenan 5m out allowed both Josh van der Flier and James Lowe to get latched over the ball for a turnover penalty, while Scotland’s next attack right before half time also ended in disappointment as George Turner was bundled into touch just short of the line for a 7-8 halftime deficit.

As the second half started, things soon got even worse for the Irish on the injury front as Ronan Kelleher—who had come on early for Kelleher—went off injured, with Cian Healy having to come on as an emergency hooker at the scrums and van der Flier taking over throwing in at the lineouts. Despite the irish injuries, Scotland were unable to find a way through the defence, and when Hugo Keenan collected Jamison Gibson-Park’s box kick in the Scottish 22, the Irish pressure allowed the replacement scrum half to send Lowe over in the far corner. And the contest was all-but over just after the hour after Jack Conan managed to hold himself in field under pressure from van der Merwe to go over in the corner, while Sexton’s conversion brought him level with Ronan O’Gara at the top of the all-time Six Nations points scorers list. As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Ireland sufferend one more injury as Garry Ringrose was stretchered off after getting his head on the wrong side of a tackle, but the visitors still managed to create one more chance as Gibson-Park broke down the left wing and fed James Ryan inside, only for the lock to be tackled just short and—with the bonus point try looking a certainty—see his attempted offload to James Lowe sail forward, leaving Andy Farrell’s men to settle for a 7-22 victory.


Oh boy did Scotland get their attacking tactics wrong this week. In recent weeks, they have had success by getting the ball out to the wings as quickly as possible to let them run rampage and make metres. However, against an Irish team featuring one of the top defensive 13s (Garry Ringrose) and a back 3 who can confidently defend, they knew that they would have to earn the right to go wide by going through the phases in midfield first. But what this resulted in was a lack of support when the ball finally made it out wide, allowing the Irish to consistently get latched over the ball before support arrived, gifting them easy turnovers.

Then in the second half, they were given a new opportunity with Ireland’s injuries at hooker leaving Josh van der Flier throwing in at lineouts. In this situation with an unfamiliar thrower, the Scots should have been kicking to the corners as frequently as they could and forcing the flanker to throw in, while they could have then really put him under pressure by lifting a pod at the front every lineout and potentially even a middle pod, forcing him to throw to the tail of the lineout every time and increasing the chances of an overthrow/steal/not straight throw.

Scotland have taken some big steps forward this Six Nations, but need to start being more clinical if they want to beat the top teams.


While of course you never want to lose players to injury, and I hope that all the players make quick recoveries, this may be a blessing in disguise for Andy Farrell’s men.

When you play in a major tournament, the last thing you want is for an injury in a key position to screw you over in the middle of the game. And while I do still worry about how little gametime Jonathan Sexton’s back-ups get, Ryan Baird got a significant runout today with Iain Henderson’s early injury. But what was really impressive was how they dealt with the loss of both hookers.

While I’m sure many of us were expecting the game to go to uncontested scrums, Cian Healy stepped up and it turned out that he had spent some time learning to cover the position, and he did an impressive job in the scrum, where his extra ballast actually seemed to help give the Irish pack a bit more of a shove. Meanwhile, the job of the lineout throwing went to Josh van der Flier, who had apparently also spent time practicing his throwing in camp. And while he was certainly given an easier ride by the Scots than he should have been, he did a solid job at the set piece despite an unfamiliar lock pairing.

While it’s great to see that Ireland are preparing for these eventualities in camp, to get to use them in this match will give them so much more confidence heading into the World Cup that if the worst happens, they can keep going.

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