Six Nations: How Scotland beating Ireland and winning Triple Crown would be massive for Scottish rugby

Gregor Townsend knows a victory over Ireland on Sunday would be massive for Scottish rugby but is under no illusion about the scale of the task awaiting the national side at Murrayfield.
Scotland's Jack Dempsey will start against Ireland at Murrayfield.  (Picture: Jane Barlow / PA Images)Scotland's Jack Dempsey will start against Ireland at Murrayfield.  (Picture: Jane Barlow / PA Images)
Scotland's Jack Dempsey will start against Ireland at Murrayfield. (Picture: Jane Barlow / PA Images)

Ireland remain the one team in the Six Nations that Scotland have failed to beat in Townsend’s tenure and they come to Edinburgh as the top-ranked side in the world. The stakes could hardly be higher, with the visitors knowing they could win the championship if they defeat Scotland and results on Saturday go their way. For Townsend's side, victory would deliver a first Triple Crown in 33 years following wins over England and Wales, and keep them in the title race.

The coach has made two changes for the game, both in the pack. As expected, Jonny Gray starts, replacing the suspended Grant Gilchrist, and will partner his older brother Richie in the second row. More surprising is the inclusion of Jack Dempsey in a rejigged back row. The dynamic Glasgow Warriors forward comes in at No 8 for his first start of the championship after appearances off the bench against England, Wales and France. Dempsey is a real threat with ball in hand and his inclusion sees Matt Fagerson switched to six and Jamie Ritchie seven. Hamish Watson drops to the bench.

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“We feel that this is the right time to see this blend,” Townsend said of his back row. “They’re all ball carriers, as is Hamish, and he’ll have a big role to play in the last quarter of the game or longer potentially. We’re playing the top side in the world and the last 20 minutes is going to be very important.

“We know playing Ireland is a tough task every year. The way they’ve kicked on and become the number one team in the world, it’s probably the toughest challenge you can get. I like to see it as an opportunity. We’ve got an opportunity to still be in the mix for the championship next week, to pick up a Triple Crown and really further the confidence of the group. They’ve gone to England and France, two very strong teams, and done very well. To get the win now would be massive, for Scottish rugby and for this group, ahead of next week and ahead of the autumn.”

Guinness Six Nations, BT Murrayfield, Sunday, 3pm. TV: live on BBC 1.

Scotland: 15. Stuart Hogg; 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Sione Tuipulotu, 11. Duhan van der Merwe; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ben White; 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. George Turner, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Matt Fagerson, 7. Jamie Ritchie (c), 8. Jack Dempsey.

Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. James Bhatti, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Scott Cummings, 20. Hamish Watson, 21. Ali Price, 22. Blair Kinghorn, 23. Chris Harris

Ireland: 15. Hugo Keenan; 14. Mack Hansen, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. James Lowe; 10. Johnny Sexton (c), 9. Conor Murray; 1. Andrew Porter, 2. Dan Sheehan, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Iain Henderson, 5. James Ryan, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Josh Van der Flier, 8. Caelan Doris.

Replacements: 16. Ronan Kelleher, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Tom O’Toole, 19. Ryan Baird, 20. Jack Conan, 21. Jamison Gibson-Park, 22. Ross Byrne, 23. Robbie Henshaw.

Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU).



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