Billy Holland believes Finn Russell could cost Scotland ahead of Ireland clash
Could Scotland's greatest strength prove to be their greatest weakness?
Andy Farrell's Ireland side travel to the Scottish capital this weekend in search of a win which would leave them on the cusp of securing just a fourth ever Grand Slam title.
Standing in their way are a Scotland team who have lit up this year's Six Nations championship with their heads up, 'jouer, jouer' style of play.
Kicking off their tournament with a scintillating display at Twickenham, Gregor Townsend's side demolished Wales at Murrayfield before an impressive comeback showing in Paris against a strong French team.
In scoring the second most tries in this year's Six Nations so far - their tally of 12 is only bested by Ireland - Scotland are evidently a potent attacking force, and one which is driven primarily by their mercurial fly half, Finn Russell.
The Racing Metro number 10 has been in imperious form for both club and country this season, highlighted by All Black's fly half, Richie Mo'unga's, recent comments, in which he described Russell as "my favourite 10 in the world".
Despite the incessant praise lavished at the feet of the British and Irish Lions playmaker, one person who feels differently about Russell is former Munster and Ireland second row, Billy Holland.
Speaking ahead of next week's Munster Schools Cup final, the former Munster captain recognised the Scotland fly half's propensity to impact games in an attacking sense, saying that "If Finn Russell plays in a dinner suit and on the front foot, he's one of the best in the world".
However, Holland went on to question whether or not Russell would be able to cope with the inevitable pressure which will be placed upon him by Paul O'Connell's bludgeoning Irish pack.
"If he's on the back foot and he (Russell) is getting guys running down his channel, and his forwards aren't getting it all their own way, that's when he makes mistakes. That is when he tries things that don't always work out", said Holland.
Many Irish fans struggle with the tag of being favourites - the mantle of plucky underdog being much preferred - but the one-time Heineken Cup winner believes that Ireland should head to Edinburgh in a buoyant mood.
"I think that Scotland aren't as good as people make them out to be, and I think Ireland are too good for Scotland", said Holland in a confident manner.
Scotland teams of old were always based off a formidable forward pack, who would attempt to offset any disparities in an attacking sense through old-fashioned blunt force and abrasiveness.
Gregor Townsend's side have evolved from this bygone style though, with the former Glasgow Warriors head coach flipping Scottish rugby on its head, and assembling a side full of backline talent which is bolstered by a more mobile set of forwards.
It is this forward area though which Holland sees as a potential weakness for the Scots; "I personally believe that Ireland will get stuck into their underbelly upfront... and I've no doubt they will and no doubt they're focused purely on disrupting Scotland".
Murrayfield is a notoriously tricky venue to navigate, with the spine-tingling rendition of the 'Flower of Scotland' coupled with the quintessentially unfavourable Scottish weather, making it one of international rugby's most challenging away days.
These are factors though which Holland is confident this rampaging Irish side can comfortably deal with, saying that "I think it will be a tough game and the conditions will be pretty miserable up there, but I do think I'd be confident of an Ireland win".
Current Munster back row and former Ireland underage international Alex Kendellen was also on hand to deliver his thoughts on Sunday's Six Nations clash, with the 22-year-old echoing the sentiments of Holland.
"They're (Ireland) going great at the moment. I think they'll win it and I cant't see see any team touching Ireland at the moment", said Kendellen in assured fashion.
Irish rugby fans will be hoping that both Holland and Kendellen's predictions come to pass, with victory at Murrayfield setting up a mouthwatering St.Patrick's weekend clash against England at the Aviva Stadium, and the chance to reclaim that hallowed Grand Slam title.
*Former Presentation Brothers College and Munster player Alex Kendellen and former Christian Brothers College student and Munster player Billy Holland were at Musgrave Park on March 9 to help preview the 2022/23 Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup Final.
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