Ireland attend a rehearsal for the pool world championships meeting in Paris

Some people have figured that Scotland v Ireland is a title decider and it will be if Ireland get a bonus point win and England and France draw as the Irish will be too far ahead for anyone to catch them. If Scotland wins, Ireland will still remain favorites to win the title, but the top three nations in the table – depending on whether England or France come out on top on Saturday – will all still have a hoot, with bonus points becoming crucial

I said IF Scotland wins and that’s a big IF. History is against us. We haven’t beaten Ireland since 2017, although there were a couple of close things, notably at Murrayfield two years ago. In all, since the first meeting in 1877, Ireland have won 68 games to our 66, with five draws. Ireland have won six Triple Crowns this century, with Scotland aiming for their first since 1990. We’re up against the reigning Triple Crown holders and the top team in the world – a position they fully deserve, having been the best team in the world for many months after their historic run of wins in New Zealand last year. Scotland played excitingly well but Ireland are the form team going into Sunday’s game and I think we’ll do well to lead them just a little while a Triple Crown and Centenary Quaich win would be something quite exceptional.

It will take Ireland to have a very day off and Scotland to pull it all together and a lot will depend on Finn Russell’s fitness and attitude. He played for Racing 92 against Toulouse at the weekend and wore what appeared to be a supportive bandage on his leg – never a good sign – but I heard he attended training yesterday. If Russell can play 80 minutes like he did against Wales in the second half, Scotland have a real shot at a result.

Any hint of a Triple Crown for Scotland makes this a massive game, but I see it very much as a rehearsal for the really big game when we play Ireland in the Rugby World Cup Pool B match at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday. October 7 at 8 p.m. I don’t see Ireland or Scotland slipping up against Tonga or Romania and when our two Celtic nations meet we will both have played reigning world champions South Africa and know what we need to do to qualify for the quarter-finals and the joy of most likely to play against France or New Zealand.

I suspect Ireland might not need to beat us on October 7th to make it out of the pool stages, but we almost certainly need to beat Ireland to reach the quarters. That’s why Sunday’s tryout is hugely important in the grand scheme of things, as performances at the World Cup are the true gauge of a nation’s standing in rugby.

Imagine the psychological impact of winning or losing on Sunday. Scotland start as underdogs against a rampant Ireland, but if the Scottish strikers get in front of their mighty opponents from the first whistle and Russell saves enough ball to unleash our deadly backs, then we can at least give Ireland a real scare. That will be a big sign for the World Cup and we will surely know by October how much improvement will be needed. Losing, and losing badly, will certainly set back the mentality of the squad ahead of the World Cup. Yes, I know we will have the final Guinness Six Nations game against Italy and the four Summer Tests to come, but the loss to Ireland, particularly a tough one, will keep the Scots on the mind and optimism of players and fans alike fast be replaced by pessimism.

I think the spur of the moment to win Scotland’s first Triple Crown in 33 years will give the side something extra to aim for and while Ireland won’t be complacent and they have a Grand Slam in their sights, the fact is something Something as ridiculous as the weather might help determine who comes out on top on Sunday. Snow, rain and bitterly cold winds are all forecast for the Edinburgh area over the next few days and while Murrayfield’s famous underfloor heating will ensure play continues on Sunday I just hope we have decent playing conditions for the game itself because I think a dry ball and a dry surface suits Scotland and we didn’t always say that in the past. Ireland attend a rehearsal for the pool world championships meeting in Paris

Russell Falcon

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