If Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw is right, Scotland vs Ireland Live the loss of visiting playmaker Johnny Sexton could be crucial to the outcome of Scotland’s game with Ireland at Murrayfield in Saturday’s Six Nations opener. The Leinster fly-half has been struggling with a calf injury and was ruled out on Tuesday, along with flanker Peter O’Mahony, while wing Andrew Trimble remains a serious doubt.
Event: England vs France Rugby
Date: Saturday, 04 February 2017
Official Live/BroadCasting: sixnationsrugby-live.com
“Sexton being out does make a little bit of difference if I’m being honest,” said Laidlaw. “I think Ireland will miss him because he’s a quality player, great goalkicker and he drives their attack. He’s a key driver in that team alongside Murray, and while they don’t play provincially together they do have a strong combination when they link up with Ireland. Obviously, they have a good understanding and you can see Jonny is really a lynchpin in that team, so whoever comes in has got a big job to do.”
Ulsterman Paddy Jackson is now likely to start for Ireland at Murrayfield, while Munster’s reserve fly-half Ian Keatley linked up with the squad as cover this week. Rory Scannell, Munster’s uncapped back, can also play No 10 and is in the squad.
Scotland backs coach Jason O’Halloran had laid out a gameplan that revolves around stopping Ireland at source by targeting their half-backs. The Scotland vs Ireland Live had identified Sexton’s loop play as one of Ireland’s key moves, and although Jackson can also run the same plays, the evidence of Ireland’s win over South Africa, when Jackson stepped in for Sexton, is that the Leinsterman’s absence will blunt Ireland’s slick midfield moves.
The other part of the approach outlined by O’Halloran included harrying Sexton’s erstwhile halfback partner Conor Murray so that the Ireland scrum-half is unable to launch the accurate kicks which did so much damage to Scotland in Dublin last year, and which were the key to Munster’s recent Champions Cup win over Glasgow at Scotstoun.
“The aerial game is a key area in the match, so we’ve spent a lot of time on that,” said Laidlaw. “It’s an individual skill, so the boys have been hammering into it at the beginning and at the end of sessions. We looked at the game over in Dublin last year and we certainly lost that aerial battle.
“We looked at Glasgow-Munster a few weeks ago and Munster won a lot of ball back in the air, so it’s a big part of the game and we need to win our fair share of balls back.”
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Last season, Scotland’s close attention to Murray led to a stray kick which produced a try and a late chargedown which almost added a second, so it is certainly a strategy that can work. However, Murray reacted badly when Glasgow targeted his standing leg in a bid to put him off his stride in a recent Champions Cup tie at Scotstoun, the scrum-half virtually accusing the Warriors of deliberately going out to hurt him. Laidlaw defended Glasgow and suggested Scotland would follow a similar tack in an effort to disrupt Murray.
“Glasgow did everything within the rules of the game,” said the Scotland captain. “Conor Murray is a brilliant player, and certainly one of the best half-backs probably in the world – he’s got a strong kicking game, is a strong runner, and a big bloke for a nine.
“He’s a good player who has a good temperament on the whole and has been one of the lynchpins for Ireland and for Munster over the last few years, so, of course, he is always going to get that [be a target] as a nine. Will we be putting pressure on Murray? Sure we will. He is not going to come to Murrayfield and get an armchair ride.”
Laidlaw said that Scotland had learnt a great deal from studying Ireland’s two autumn games against the All Blacks, and had incorporated those lessons into their planning. “They were interesting games and there was a clear reason why Ireland won the first, which was because New Zealand’s error count was so high,” he said. “They made a lot of mistakes in the game, missed a lot of line-outs and didn’t give themselves a platform to launch attacks into the game. The two key differences in the second match were that they reduced their error count and were much more aggressive in defence. We can take some stuff, some learnings out of that.”
As Scotland have found out against Six Nations Rugby 2017 Live recently, knowing how to stop Ireland is only half of the solution; it is the execution that counts.
Robert Kitson Ireland. Hard to see them folding at home to England on the final weekend with a potential title and Lions tour berths up for grabs.
Paul Rees Ireland have home advantage over injury-hit England and travel to Cardiff where they have lost only three times since 1983 and they were the most impressive European side in the autumn.
Andy Bull Ireland. They improved hugely in the autumn, and all those injuries mean England surely aren’t going to be quite as strong as they were in 2016.
Michael Aylwin Scotland. A long shot, and we’ve been excited about Scotland before. Then disappointed. Again. But confidence is high. England and Ireland also contenders, obviously.
Gerard Meagher England. They comfortably boast the greatest strength in depth and are still improving under Eddie Jones. And if all else fails, Owen Farrell’s goal-kicking will not.
RK Scotland v Ireland in round one. A Scottish victory would make everyone sit bolt upright.
PR Scotland v Ireland and Wales against Scotland vs Ireland Live on the opening two weekends.
AB Ireland v England in Dublin. Rightly or wrongly, there’s an idea that England have a little of that old arrogance about them. The Irish have been waiting for another shot.
MA Scotland v Ireland. The Scots will need to win this and enjoy underdog status. But will probably then lose at Twickenham. Ireland to beat England in Dublin.
GM Wales v England. Wales will relish being underdogs at home but if England prevail they will take some stopping. Scotland v Ireland is also hugely significant.
Who will be the key player?
RK Alun Wyn Jones. Should Wales struggle under his captaincy, who will lead the Lions this summer?
PR Jonathan Sexton’s fitness will be crucial for Ireland, Nathan Hughes needs to find Billy Vunipola’s boots a comfortable fit and Finn Russell must spark Scotland.
AB Maro Itoje, left. If there is a player who can haul England through this tournament and their transition to a younger team for 2019, it’s him.
MA Finn Russell. The way he failed to win the match against Munster was worrying but thinking on his feet as an underdog will suit him – indeed, render him lethal.
GM Johnny Sexton. If Ireland win without him in Scotland and he is fit thereafter they may just be favourites. Huge roles too for Nathan Hughes and Zander Fagerson. RK Wales will have their work cut out against Italy in Rome.
PR Murrayfield, where Ireland and Wales will tread warily.
AB Scotland are stronger now than they’ve been in a long, long while, and are well capable of beating any of the other five sides.
MA This is the annual ‘can Italy win a game?’ question. They might well beat Wales on the opening weekend, but would that be a shock?
AB A little more running rugby in the final few minutes, and a lot more confusion about who needs to do what to win on the final weekend.
MA Nothing on the field. They might resolve a tie-break but there’s already a system for that called points difference. Waste of time and energy.
GM Not much. England should get the most but will probably still need to beat Ireland. If the title is won in Dublin with a losing bonus point it will be to the detriment of the tournament.
Wales kick off the season on monster clashes against Australia on Guy Fawkes night – November 5 – with Eddie Jones’ Red Rose facing South Africa a week later a Twickenham.
And not to be missed for Irish fans is their trip to NFL giants Chicago Bears’ home ground Soldier Field for a clash with the All Blacks on November 5.Ireland recorded one of the most famous wins in their history by beating New Zealand in Chicago
And by the time it all finishes, we’ll be well into our advent calendars as the Six Nations grand slam winners look to beat Australia for the fourth time on the spin on December 3.
With the Lions tour of New Zealand coming up next summer, it is the first chance for the British and Irish stars to impress Warren Gatland ahead of the Six Nations in the spring.
And here SunSport reveals all the fixtures, below, for you to make sense of the Autumn internationals and when they are on the telly – Scotland vs Ireland Live so you don’t miss a try, scrum or tackle.Source