British & Irish Lions 2021

3 things learned from Ireland v Scotland Six Nations clash

2020-02-02 13:14
Jonathan Sexton (AFP)

Dublin - Ireland edged Scotland 19-12 in a nail-biting Six Nations encounter on Saturday.

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Both face formidable foes next weekend with the Irish hosting Grand Slam holders Wales and the Scots at home to World Cup finalists England.

Here we look at three things that emerged from their match and which can be pointers in the week ahead in terms of selection and a warning to their opponents:

Sexton silences doubters for now

The Welsh will have taken note that Ireland's talismanic Johnny Sexton answered all the question marks hanging over him.

His performance and leadership as captain were labelled "magnificent" by coach Andy Farrell.

The latter was probably the biggest positive for the team. As aside from the 19 points he scored he showed no signs of the tantrums that for some made him a risky choice as skipper.

The 2018 World Player of the Year did not stay in his zone and appeared to relish the extra responsibilities that captaincy brings going up to whichever player had forced a turnover deep in their own territory and slapping them on their backs.

Wales will provide a sterner test than the Scots and may test his temperament more but the first signs were encouraging.

Hastings makes light of absent Russell

The Scots could take a lot of positives away from the game - counter-balancing the regrets over a missed opportunity - and a major one was the assured performance of Adam Hastings at fly-half.

The 23-year-old son of former Scots legend Gavin Hastings did not look like someone making his first Six Nations start in the cauldron of Lansdowne Road nor that it was due to first choice Finn Russell being disciplined for breaking team protocols.

Almost faultless with the boot he and half-back partner Ali Price directed play with aplomb - one cross-field kick from his "magic box of tricks" was worthy of the equally mercurial Russell.

Hastings looks likely to start against England not least because to slot Russell back in with only a week between the matches is a hard ask.

That prospect does not concern Scotland captain Stuart Hogg.

"He was brilliant," said Hogg. "I was really impressed how he performed. "He is a world class talent. He works incredibly hard. I am proud of him."

Irish dogs of war bare their teeth

There had been considerable raising of eyebrows when Irish rugby icon Brian O'Driscoll said the scrum lacked a "dog" meaning someone who imposed themselves on their opponents and like his former team-mate Sean O'Brien took physicality to its legal limits.

Whether those remarks energised them or they were plain wrong the Irish scrum were outstanding in constantly denying the Scots from crossing the try-line when parked just metres from it.

They adjusted well too to the early loss of highly-rated prospect Caelan Doris with veteran Peter O'Mahoney replacing him.

It may have been CJ Stander who was named man of the match  the South Africa-born back row forward produced two try-saving turnovers - but for Farrell the whole group deserved the accolade.

"His (Stander) performance epitomised what all the scrum was doing for each other.

"The pack was magnificent."

Read more on:    ireland  |  scotland  |  six nations  |  rugby


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