Six Nations

Ireland and Scotland look to shake off RWC hangover

2020-01-31 07:07
 Johnny Sexton
Johnny Sexton (Getty Images)

Dublin - Ireland host Scotland in their opening Six Nations clash in Dublin on Saturday with both sides desperate to put a disappointing World Cup behind them.

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The Scots' last win in Dublin came 10 years ago while the Irish have lost just one home Six Nations match - to England in 2019 - in the past five years.

Here follows three key things which could decide the match:

Pressure on Sexton

Johnny Sexton has faced pressure before with Leinster and Ireland but Saturday's game could be one of his most testing.

The 34-year-old flyhalf returns after nearly a two-month absence due to a knee injury but insists he is raring to go.

He also captains his country for the first time in a Six Nations at an age when he may have thought that possibility had passed him by.

He describes it as the "greatest honour".

However, some have questioned the appointment as the competitive streak which strays into bad humour at times has jarred in the past.

"He explains it by saying this is the way I am but that is not good enough," former Ireland flyhalf Tony Ward told AFP last year.

"Leaders are meant to inspire not alienate."

Aside from that, Sexton will be expected to run things with Scotland number one Finn Russell absent due to being punished for breaking team rules.

However, he says Adam Hastings - making his first Six Nations start - presents just as much a problem as the Racing 92 star with his "box of tricks."

Sexton will also be determined to put behind him what was an underwhelming World Cup for him and his team.

He has described the 46-14 mauling by New Zealand in the quarter-finals as one he won't forget for the rest of his life.

Hogg faces tough baptism as skipper

If Sexton is under pressure then spare a thought for Scotland's new captain Stuart Hogg.

Hard enough in your first Six Nations match as skipper to face a side you have not beaten in Dublin for 10 years and got well beaten by in the World Cup.

Even harder when the other world class player in the Scotland team, Finn Russell is absent.

Hogg, though, has been thorough in seeking advice and was due to speak to another Scotland great who skippered the side from fullback, Gavin Hastings.

"Gavin would be a good one to have a chat with...of how you bring the best out of players in the frontline from being so far behind," said the 27-year-old.

Hogg's ability to turn a game with his breaks into the backline could hurt the Irish defence provided he is not too distracted by his added responsibilities.

Captaincy may also take his mind off other matters after he revealed he lost his hair following a hair transplant because he bleached it too quickly.

A second operation has, however, restored his locks.

"It was a little bit painful," he told the Rugby Union podcast.

He will hope Saturday is not as painful.

Will the Irish dog bite?

Irish rugby icon Brian O'Driscoll believes there is no "dog" in the present Irish scrum and that is hurting them.

The former centre says there is no one like ex-Irish flanker Sean O'Brien in being able to "impose themselves" on the opposition and be "nasty".

His former Leinster team-mate Sexton smiled when it was raised.

"I saw the headline and the gist of it. Look, I can understand what he is saying.

"But there are a few guys in there who have a bit of grunt about them. Hopefully they can show that on Saturday."



15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Conor Murray, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 CJ Stander, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Cian Healy

Subtitutes: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Peter O'Mahony, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw


15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Rory Sutherland

Substitutes: 16 McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Chris Harris


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