The 2017 RBS 6 Nations rugby union tournament gets underway tomorrow, and the first match sees Scotland take on Ireland at Murrayfield. So how are the two teams viewing their initial battle and which one is most likely to be the victor?
Scotland v. Ireland – Will Scotland Start Their 6 Nations Campaign Off In Style?
Scotland may have finished a place behind Ireland in last year’s 6 Nations tournament, but many fans believe that they could do far better this time round. In fact, Jim Telfer, who captained the Scots when they last won the title (then the Five Nations) 18 years ago, recently claimed that “this is the best Scottish squad since 1999”.
The team’s backs coach, Jason O’Halloran, responded by played the compliment down. “It’s a flattering comment but it doesn’t give us points when we start against Ireland,” he told the BBC.
Greig Laidlaw, however, was also adamant about how capable the squad was when he spoke at the tournament’s launch event at the Hurlingham Club, London, last week.
“I believe we are starting to get more strength in depth, and for me personally I feel it’s the strongest squad we have had,” the Scottish captain said.
However, he also noted that the squad would need to get their campaign off to a flying start and the Irish wouldn’t be easy to defeat.
“Ireland are very much the form side with England. We need to play extremely well and we are determined to do that,” he said.
Not everything is entirely settled in the Scottish camp, as head coach Vern Cotter is set to step down in June. However, if full-back Stuart Hogg’s attitude is anything to go by, the knowledge that this will be their last 6 Nations tournament under Cotter will ensure that they are even more fired up to win the famous rugby trophy this year.
“Vern Cotter has worked wonders for Scotland. He’s put a huge amount of effort into this country and it would be good to send him off with some victories to thank him for all the work he’s done for us,” Hogg told the BBC.
Can the Irish Claim the RBS 6 Nations Crown Again? – Scotland v. Ireland
Ireland, alongside England, are many pundits’ pre-tournament favourites, but you wouldn’t think so from listening to their head coach, Joe Schmidt. According to the Irish Examiner, Schmidt stated that he thought his lads would be in for a “torrid time” when they came up against the Scots.
Whilst claiming that he and his squad were aiming to finish the tournament in the top two, he said that the Scots were “in super shape at the moment”.
“I think they’re really well-equipped, as well-equipped as I’ve seen them anyway and that’s going to be a massive challenge for us,” he said.
The Irish have put in some encouraging performances since last year’s tournament, so they’re generally expected to win their opening tie. Whilst they eventually lost their test series against South Africa last summer, they did beat the Springboks by 26-20 in the first match, and they also managed to defeat the All Blacks and Australia during the 2016 Autumn Internationals.
However, this is the 6 Nations. Anything can happen in this thrilling rugby union tournament and both teams will want to get an early win.
Will you be watching Scotland v. Ireland on Saturday? Who do you think will triumph? Add a comment below, or join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.