5 Talking Points Ahead Of Ireland’s Six Nations Opener With Scotland
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Joe Schmidt and Vern Cotter both named their sides today ahead of this weekend’s Six Nations opener.
Scotland head into the game with what looks to be one of the best sides they’ve had available to them in years. The back-three alone of Tommy Seymour, Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg is one of the best in the tournament.
Cotter also has the in-form Finn Russell at his disposal and a potential Lion in the form of centre Huw Jones. Ireland head into the game once again with no Johnny Sexton, with Paddy Jackson tasked at leading the back-line.
One of the main talking points however is Schmidt’s decision to not bring in Ian Madigan, despite the current injury crisis at ten. Instead Ian Keatley provides cover despite being nothing more than a replacement for Munster this season, and having not been named in the original squad.
This is just one of several talking points for Ireland heading into the game. Here are five we reckon will dominate over the next few days.
Niall Scannell gets his chance.
In Sean Cronin’s absence uncapped, in-form Munster hooker Niall Scannell has been preferred to Leinster’s James Tracy. Tracy only has one cap himself, but has spent a considerable time in the Irish camp, learning the calls as opposed to Scannell. The Munster front-row may only get a cameo on Saturday, but it’s good to see Schmidt has enough faith to throw him straight into the Lions den that is the Six Nations.
What if Jackson gets injured?
This is a potential massive banana skin for Schmidt. What if Paddy Jackson limps off during the game? Keatley has proved time and time again that he’s just not good enough to make that step-up to the big time. If Jackson goes off and Keatley comes on early, Ireland could be in real trouble against the Scots. If Madigan was on the bench, at least Irish fans would know they’re in safe hands with a player that’s proved himself at the highest level.
Tommy Bowe is back.
Tommy Bowe hasn’t played for Ireland since limping off against Argentina in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. We all know what Tommy Bowe is capable off, but does he still have the legs to cut it at Test level? Schmidt has a lot of talented young wingers available to him at the moment, but has gone with the safe, tried and tested option once again. Keith Earls struggled with his fitness during the week, so if it’s a case once again where Bowe is called into action early, will he be up to the task after spending so much time away from the international scene? On the plus side Ryle Nugent will be delighted!
Ringrose gets his chance to shine.
Jared Payne’s injury could be a blessing in disguise for Ireland. We all know if he was fit, Schmidt would be starting him at 13. The young Leinster centre will now get his chance to start a Six Nations game alongside his provincial teammate. Big things are expected from this starlet, and we for one believe this will be his breakout event.
Sean O’Brien once again is given the go ahead to start, despite having very little game-time and only being passed fit late in the week. We’ve been here time and time again, and we know what can and very well could happen. There’s absolutely no doubt O’Brien is one of the very best the game has to offer if he’s fit and match ready. That’s a very big if however, especially when it comes to Sean O’Brien. Another risk that could pay-off, or backfire.