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30th Nov 2020

No-nonsense Ireland team we’d love to see start against Scotland

Patrick McCarry


Eight changes from the side that started against Georgia.

“It’s a six-day turnaround so there’s not going to be that much time on the field to fix a few things,” Ireland coach Andy Farrell reflected after his side’s dour win over Georgia. “We’ve got to be honest with each other and make sure there’s a better 80-minute performance next weekend.”

Trying to desperately hang their hat on something positive after they lost to England, the Ireland coach and his players spoke about not giving up and how they won the second half. What is to be said, then, of them drawing the second half of their 23-10 win over Georgia with a 3-3 scoreline?

The world’s 12th best side, who lost 40-0 and 18-0 to England and Wales earlier in the Autumn Nations Cup, fronted up superbly in defence and also teamed up for the best of the three tries scored at the Aviva Stadium, on Sunday. Ireland were left ruing two tries that referee Mathieu Raynal either chalked off or flat-out denied, but this was another worrying non-performance by Farrell’s side.

Heading into this Saturday’s 3rd place playoff with Scotland, Farrell commented, “I think they’re a big threat.

“They’re playing well, they play a nice brand of rugby and the last time we played them here, it was a difficult match. They played really well that night so I’m sure after watching that second-half performance and taking stock of what happened in the Six Nations, I’m sure they will see that as an opportunity that they might try to take back. So, we’ll see what we’re about this week.”

As much as Ireland will talk up the Scots, all week, they are without out-halves Finn Russell and Adam Hastings for the weekend, laboured to a win over Italy, lost to France and are not exactly in peak condition or form.

For Ireland, the injuries are stacking up after their run of five Test matches in the past six weeks. Keith Earls (back), Billy Burns (groin), Conor Murray (dead leg) and Rob Herring (rib) all picked up knocks while Will Connors went off for a late Head Injury Assessment and did not return. Added to that, James Lowe may be out of the mix too after picking up a strain in the defeat to England.

For us, the Scotland game should see Jacob Stockdale revert to the left wing position and Hugo Keenan retain his No.14 jersey. No-one has locked down the fullback slot, so we are hoping Farrell sees sense and gives Andrew Conway a run there.

In midfield, Stuart McCloskey has done enough to get his first ever back-to-back starts in Test rugby while it would be nice to see Bundee Aki freed up in the No.13 jersey. If he passes fitness markers, Billy Burns deserves another start. If not, we would parachute Jack Carty straight in at No.10 and would go so far as to suggest Harry Byrne for a squad role.

In the pack, Ronan Kelleher would benefit from another start at hooker. If he is our best bet for the 2021 Six Nations, let him learn on the job. James Ryan and Iain Henderson can start again while it is all change in the back row again, with Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris injected to add some life to this Irish side.

Our Ireland team to face Scotland

15. Andrew Conway
14. Hugo Keenan
13. Bundee Aki
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Billy Burns/Jack Carty*
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Cian Healy
2. Ronan Kelleher
3. Andrew Porter
4. James Ryan
5. Iain Henderson
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris

Subs: Rob Herring, Eric O’Sullivan, John Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, *Jack Carty/Ross Byrne, Shane Daly.



Season 3 has returned with Ian Madigan & Eimear Considine as hosts, and has already featured interviews with Brian O’Driscoll, Nigel Owens, Sean Cronin, Shane Williams, Mike Brown, CJ Stander, Ugo Monye, Sene Naoupu and more.


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