Ireland face Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday in a Rugby World Cup warm up match as both nations prepare in earnest for next months tournament.
Ireland kicked off their World Cup warm up last week with a convincing 35-21 victory over Wales as they continued their impressive form having won this season’s Six Nations. Coach Joe Schmidt has named one debutant in his team to take on Scotland with Leinster flanker Jack Conan set to make his senior Ireland debut. Chris Henry is also set to make his first start of the year after undergoing heart surgery. Henry suffered a stroke last November on the morning of Ireland’s game against South Africa. Tests revealed that he had a small hole in his heart and surgery followed to rectify the problem. Returning to the international stage less than a year after this is a staggering achievement. Ireland’s training squad was reduced to 42 players this week with Schmidt set to name his final 31-man squad for the World Cup on August 31st. After Saturday’s game against Scotland, Ireland take on Wales again at home before facing England at Twickenham in their final warm up match at the start of September.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter has named an experimental side for Saturday’s match with New Zealand born Hugh Blake making his Scotland debut in the back row. Scotland will be captained by Henry Pyrgos as Cotter rests a number of first team players, opting instead to give other squad members a run out. In the backs, Richie Vernon comes in at centre for his first Scotland appearance in two years having made the transition from a number 8 to centre. Scotland had another disappointing Six Nations, finishing bottom of the table and failing to win a single game. The Scottish Rugby Union announced on Wednesday that they have extended Cotter’s contract until at least 2017, with many in the media questioning whether a contract extension is suitable on the eve of rugby’s biggest tournament. Although an undoubted coaching talent, a disappointing World Cup would see the pressure mount on Cotter after the lacklustre Six Nations. Cotter will be hoping that the players selected for Saturday’s game perform well and give him a selection headache for his final World Cup squad. Following Saturday’s match, Scotland play Italy both at home and away before taking on France in Paris in their final warm up match.
Ireland are the 1.13 (1/8) favourites for victory on Saturday with Scotland 9 (8/1) Our prediction and rugby tip is Scotland on the handicap with a start of 17 points at 1.91 (10/11).
By: Scott McGlynn