Guinness Six Nations 2023 Rugby Coverage

Guinness Six Nations Preview - Dominant Ireland Tackle Red Hot Scotland

Guinness Six Nations Preview - Dominant Ireland Tackle Red Hot Scotland

Scotland vs Ireland Guinness Six Nations 2023 at BT Murray Field in Edinburgh match preview as Jonathan Sexton faces off with Finn Russell.

Mar 10, 2023
Guinness Six Nations Preview - Dominant Ireland Tackle Red Hot Scotland

Andy Farrell and his world number one ranked Ireland travel to Edinburgh hoping to get one step closer to a first Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam since 2018. 

Standing in their way is perhaps the most talented Scottish team since the advent of the professional game. 

On the back of their most successful start to a campaign in the Six Nations era, Gregor Townsend's side is on the precipice of a first-ever triple crown since 1990.

A win would guarantee the triple crown and see Scotland enter the final round with a chance of winning a first Six Nations title. 

With so much on the line for both sides, Sunday's clash has the potential to be the game of the Championship. 

Team News 

Ireland enters the clash with several big-name players returning from injury. 

Captain Jonathan Sexton heads the returning players, who will once again start at flyhalf, having missed out on Ireland's victory in Rome over Italy in round three.

Outside Sexton will be Garry Ringrose, whose defensive prowess and smooth running was missed in round three. 

Elsewhere Tighthead Tadhg Furlong makes his first appearance of the tournament, with his return coming at just the right time as Finlay Bealham is absent through injury. 

Dan Sheehan joins Furlong in the front row, having edged out Ronan Kelleher for starting Hooker role. 

On the bench, Cian Healy, Jamison Gibson-Park and Robbie Henshaw all return to add crucial experience for the later stages of the contest. 

For the hosts, Stuart Hogg will win his 100th cap highlighting his longevity in the blue shirt, having made his debut in 2012. 

At thirty years old, Hogg is very much in his prime and has been in sublime form through the opening three rounds of the Championship. 

Regarding personnel changes, Jonny Gray replaces the suspended Grant Gilchrist in the second row, whilst Jack Dempsey starts at number eight. 

Dempsey's addition sees a reshuffle of the backrow as Matt Fagerson switches to the blindside as captain Jamie Ritchie starts at openside.

On the bench, Simon Berghan is preferred to the experienced WP Nel, whilst secondrow Scott Cummings is set to make his Six Nations debut. 

Key Match-Up 

Both sides are brimming with confidence, buoyed by unbelievable quality across the board; picking a single match-up is a challenge. 

Yet with two of the world's top flyhalves on display in Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton and Scotland's mercurial playmaker Finn Russell, their head-to-head alone is worth the admission. 

Making the battle so fascinating is the contrast between the two players on show. In Sexton, Ireland, possess a field general of the highest order who marshals his team around the park at a masterful rate the likes of which has never been seen. 

Undoubtedly the closest thing to Tom Brady in a rugby sense, Sexton pulls the strings with such authority due to his intricate knowledge of his teammates' roles. 

On the other hand, Russell is a ball of energy capable of creating magic out of nothing as he torments opposition defenders. This is not to downplay his tactical prowess, but the Racin92 star is more capable of ripping open a game with a moment of brilliance than he is of grinding out an arm wrestle. 

If Sexton is Brady, Russell is more of a Lamar Jackson-style player—simply dynamite but prone to the odd head-scratching mistake. 

Speaking at his media availability this week, Sexton was effusive in his praise of Russell and Scotland. 

"It's testament to Finn's character that he has come back the way he has after being left out of the November series, to be brought back and influence things so quickly," Sexton reflected. 

"He's on the top of his form and has a full bag of tricks. 

"To stop him, we have to do it as a team. We need to know when to go, when to hold off when to pressurise him." 

Based on their current form and ranking as the top team in the game, Sexton was keen to downplay the favourites title of his side. 

 "We don't consider ourselves favourites (against Scotland). We don't even talk about that. We think it's going to be an incredibly tough game. 

"They're probably the best Scottish team, maybe not of all time because there are Scottish teams that have gone on to win championships and stuff, but definitely the best Scottish team we've played against. Probably since the Six Nations started, it's the best Scottish team. It will be a really, really tough game, and it will probably be our toughest of the Championship so far." 


Never has an Ireland vs Scotland Six Nations fixture had so much riding on it, which is a testament to the two sides, given where they have come from since 2019. 

Excluding the silverware on offer, Sunday presents a significant opportunity to lay down a marker ahead of their Rugby World Cup meeting later in the year. 

Ireland is rightly regarded as the favourites on the back of winning nine of the last ten meetings between the two sides. 

Having welcomed back a host of stars, there is no reason to believe they will not enter the fixture, firmly believing a win is not only possible but an expectatio. 

On the other hand, Scotland is as good as advertised and will be equally driven to land major silverware for the first time since 1990. 

Having listed the critical match-up of the two flyhalves above, the traditional issue of dealing with Irish physicality is an area Scotland will need to manage. 

So often coming unstuck in the tight exchanges, Scotland must handle the impact of several Irish forwards, most notably Number Eight Caelen Doris. 

Certainly, this has the potential to be a tight affair given both sides from coming into the weekend. Thus, the potential for the fixture to go in several directions is on the table. 

Yet based on the two sides' history and how consistent Ireland has been for several seasons, this feels like the latest step in their journey to a potentially historic run. 

Clearly not underestimating their opponents, Ireland will weather a number of Scottish storms but will ultimately have too much for their hosts. 

Shutting down the dangerous Scottish backline with a cohesive defensive line, Ireland will frustrate Scotland whilst building scoreboard pressure.

In the end, a clash that will feel close will end with a rather lopsided score as Ireland enter the final round, still in the hunt for a grand slam. Ireland by 13.

Written by Philip Bendon


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 Jamie 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