Ireland travel to Edinburgh for what is always a potential banana peel of a game. A bonus point win is necessary to have a chance of retaining the championship.
Injuries in some key positions are going to make this as difficult a challenge as ever, with Ringrose, Henshaw, Stander and Toner off duty this week.
|Allan Dell||1||Cian Healy|
|Stuart McInally||2||Rory Best (Captain)|
|Simon Berghan||3||Tadhg Furlong|
|Grant Gilchrist||4||Quinn Roux|
|Jonny Gray||5||James Ryan|
|Ryan Wilson||6||Peter O’Mahony|
|Jamie Ritchie||7||Sean O’Brien|
|Josh Strauss||8||Jack Conan|
|Greig Laidlaw (Captain)||9||Conor Murray|
|Finn Russell||10||Johnny Sexton|
|Sean Maitland||11||Jacob Stockdale|
|Sam Johnson||12||Bundee Aki|
|Huw Jones||13||Chris Farrell|
|Tommy Seymour||14||Keith Earls|
|Stuart Hogg||15||Rob Kearney|
|Fraser Brown||16||Sean Cronin|
|Jamie Bhatti||17||Dave Kilcoyne|
|D’arcy Rae||18||Andrew Porter|
|Ben Toolis||19||Ultan Dillane|
|Rob Harley||20||Josh van der Flier|
|Ali Price||21||John Cooney|
|Peter Horne||22||Joey Carbery|
|Blair Kinghorn||23||Jordan Larmour|
Their departure leaves the way open for a few on the fringe. Rob Kearney did not make the race against time to get back into contention. The choice of Henshaw at full back did not work, and he would need an extended number of games, I feel, to get back into the groove of being a full back.
Kearney did not look fit in his last outing for Leinster, where his timing was off and he made uncharacteristic handling errors. Perhaps this was an opportunity to give Jordan Larmour another start in the Irish jersey, but Schmidt obviously prefers to use him as an impact sub later in the game.
Carberry also could have made a start at full back, although he has started exclusively at ten for Munster this season. He never shone there for Leinster anyway.
Both Carberry and Larmour seem to have fallen into that dreaded pigeon hole of utility replacement with each covering a number of positions. It may mean that they do not start a match although keeping their bums on the replacement bench.
It’s not really a fair position to be in. Other players are going to get chosen in those positions to replace injuries, bypassing the bench each time. Nevertheless, that is simply the nature of the professional game, and especially at international level where attrition can be a deciding factor in the winning or losing of a game.
Ireland need a performance. We need to dominate the Scots and not let them off to another fast start. They began well last week against Italy, but let their visitors in for soft tries towards the end.
They will be looking for a scalp; it’s only two years since they ambushed us in the opening game of out season, scoring two tries before Ireland got into gear.
The one solace is that they will not be able to replicate what England did last week. They simply do not have the muscle. My one worry is that Hogg will be too much to handle and that Scotland’s kicking game will pin us back in our own half.
Sean O’Brien gets the nod over Josh van der Flier, who put in a tough shift last week. When O’Brien came on he made a few decent carries, but it was too little and the game was beyond Ireland at that stage.
Jack Conan is a solid number eight but is also returning from injury. Chris Farrell gets called into the centre position to replace injured Ringrose. He deserves the chance.