Fired-up Scots look to pile more pain on Schmidt’s Ireland and take next step

Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield

THE SCOTS ARE up for this one, make no mistake.

Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw sat in the relatively calm surroundings of one of the hospitality suites in Murrayfield after leading his team through their captain’s run in blustery conditions and gave off a vibe of calm, steely determination.

There’s a yellow weather warning in place forecasting strong winds in Edinburgh tomorrow and Scotland are planning on brewing up a storm with a statement win over Ireland on the pitch.

Scotland during their captain’s run at Murrayfield. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“If we want to compete and take the next step, it’s games like this you need to win against quality opposition,” said Laidlaw in underlining that tomorrow is an opportunity for Scotland to underline that they are now genuine Six Nations contenders.

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“Ireland are certainly that, they’ve proved it over the last couple of years in the championship. They’re one of the best teams in the world, so we’ve got a lot of respect for them. If we’re going to win tomorrow, we’re going to have to play one of our best games.”

Laidlaw didn’t shirk questions about whether this game means anything for the World Cup clash between the sides later this year – “obviously it all helps” – or whether he thinks Ireland could be in for the kind of collapse England suffered last year – “Well, I hope so, for sure!” – but he stressed that the Scots are focused on the here and now.

“We feel we can cause any team in the world problems with our attacking game and we plan to do that tomorrow,” said the Clermont halfback.

“If we can get our hands on the ball, we can create quick ball. That’s in our control. If we can create opportunities, it’s up to us to take them. On the flip side, we want a strong defensive performance tomorrow as well.”

Ireland will certainly test Gregor Townsend’s side when they have the ball and Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor scoffed at the idea that Joe Schmidt’s men are predictable.

“I read those comments,” said Taylor. “I’ve been involved with the Scottish team for six years and even for two with Glasgow when Joe Schmidt was with Leinster and I’d say they’re far from predictable.

Scotland boss Gregor Townsend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“For me, they’re excellent, their coaching team is excellent, they are probably one of the best coaching teams in the world in terms of how they play the game.

“They’ve always got moves – even over in Dublin last year they had two scrum moves that caught us by surprise and what I’ve found over the years with trying to prepare for them is they’ll always have something up their sleeve and they always have these signature type plays that they’re very good at pulling out.

“So our defensive systems have to be very good, we don’t know exactly what’s coming so we’re just going to be really strong in our systems.”

Taylor reckons Townsend and assistant coach Mike Blair will have a few Scottish tricks prepared, as will lineout specialist Danny Wilson – with Ireland sure to painfully recall the try Alex Dunbar scored from a nine-man lineout at Murrayfield in 2017.

The kick battle will be as important as ever tomorrow too, with Taylor sure that the difficult weather conditions will mean more use of the boot. 

“I think there’s going to be a lot more kicking in the game,” said Taylor. “Maybe with the wind and depending on if you have the wind or don’t have the wind. “So I think some of the tactics may change slightly.

Scotland captain Laidlaw. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Both teams have got a pretty good kicking game. We showed that we could put the ball behind Italy [last weekend] and put them under pressure.

“Ireland have got a good box-kicking type game and pressure game, so I think you’ll see that kick chase, kick pressure, kick diffusion part of the game is going to be huge.”

But Scotland feel they’re ready for the tactical and physical onslaught Schmidt’s team will bring. Now they need to do their talking on the pitch.

“We’ve prepared really well,” said Laidlaw. “It’s up to us to take that step tomorrow and get out and get a winning performance.” 

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