Six Ireland team changes predicted as big names backed to face Scotland
"Scotland are good, across the board... there's no real weaknesses any more."
On Friday afternoon, Andy Farrell will name his Ireland team to face Scotland in the fourth round of the Six Nations. Bypassing the draw possibility, the winner will either be on course for a Grand Slam or eyeing up a first championship win in 24 years.
Ireland are three from three while Scotland are not out of the running despite losing to France, in Paris, in their last outing. Farrell has several frontline stars back in his squad so Ireland should be closer to full strength.
On House of Rugby [LISTEN from 42:00 below], Greg O'Shea, Lindsay Peat and Anna Caplice debated the three biggest Ireland team selection calls for this Sunday's game at Edinburgh.
Three biggest Ireland team selection calls
Lindsay Peat got straight into Ireland team talk, after Greg O'Shea had teed up the Scots as a dangerous outfit. She pondered if Andy Farrell would restore 'the sacred partnership' of Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose in the Irish backline.
"You also have the battle of the 9s, the 10s and the battle of the back row," she said. "For Scotland, we might see Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson both starting. Watson is ab absolute pain around the breakdown, and if you're going to stop Ireland, you're going to target them there. Same with Richie Gray... we can see that Scotland are very much Ireland-esque, in that they want to keep moving the ball."
Peat is also eyeing another big battle in the front row and, for that reason, is leaning at Tadhg Furlong returning to the starting XV.
Second row, scrumhalf and centre the big calls
Iain Henderson started in the second row against Italy but was decent rather than exceptional in that win. Ryan Baird staked his claim by making a big impact off the bench, in Rome. Anna Caplice opted for Henderson while Greg O'Shea said:
"I'd go for Baird as he is that bit more dynamic than Henderson, definitely at the moment. Unless Andy Farrell is really looking to focus on the set pieces, cross t's and dot i's, it could be Henderson, but I think Baird offers you more around the pitch."
Peat agreed with O'Shea and would love to see a tank-emptying 55-60 minutes from Baird, leaving Henderson to come on as one of the experienced match closers. Peat expects Ireland to revert to the O'Mahony-van der Flier-Doris back row so a lineout caller like Henderson may be better for Ireland as a replacement.
Dan Sheehan and Johnny Sexton are expected, by the panel, to come back into the starting XV but that leaves scrumhalf up for debate. Craig Casey started against Italy but may now struggle to make the match-day 23 for Edinburgh.
"If Jamison Gibson-Park is ready to go," said O'Shea, "I'd give him a start. He was the number one choice, coming into the championship." Peat agreed with that No.9 call but Caplice feels Conor Murray will start. All three reckoned Casey may miss out.
At centre, everyone had Garry Ringrose starting while Peat and Caplice argued for Bundee Aki starting over Stuart McCloskey with O'Shea suggesting Robbie Henshaw could return on the bench.
HOUSE OF RUGBY'S IRELAND TEAM FOR SCOTLAND
15. Hugo Keenan
14. Mack Hansen
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Jamison Gibson-Park
1. Andrew Porter
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Ryan Baird
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris
Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Tom O'Toole, Iain Henderson, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.
WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE:
- Brian O'Driscoll on the nine players in world rugby he's most excited to watch
- Two big calls in our Ireland team that needs to start against Scotland
- Brian O'Driscoll on the teammate that taught him a valuable lesson in his first Ireland camp
- "Apologies for the language" - Bundee Aki frustrations picked up on ref microphone during Italy win
- Lawrence Dallaglio makes seismic Ireland claim as Brian O’Driscoll praises Caelan Doris