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Scotland v Ireland: Conor Murray in line of fire as Scots stars blast up the heat

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Conor Murray is in for another rough afternoon in Scotland after a pair of Glasgow Warriors forwards doubled-down on the controversial tactics they employed to "rattle" the Ireland scrum-half last month.

Murray was left fuming after what he perceived was the "dangerous" targeting of his standing leg during Munster's Champions Cup win at Scotstoun, and his patience looks set to be tested again in today's Six Nations opener.

No 8 Josh Strauss was one of those who blind-sided Murray after he box-kicked during the game and he yesterday refused to entertain criticism from the No 9 and his coach Joe Schmidt of the way he and Jonny Gray targeted him last time out.

"It's just kick-pressure really. It's a strategy and we executed it," Strauss said.

"We don't look at anyone specifically when it comes to a kick strategy and we'll just do the same.

"If we can get charge-downs you can win the game. If there's no guard, you're going to look for that, you're going to try and put pressure on the ruck as well.

"I was a little bit surprised (he went public) - we didn't target anyone, we just looked for kick-pressure and didn't look for anyone in particular. It's just by chance he's the No 9 and that's why it happened. I don't know what he's thinking. When it came out we didn't take too much from it, because there was no target on his back."

Hooker Fraser Brown, who had a feud with Keith Earls after the first Munster clash when the Ireland wing accused him of feigning injury and subsequently apologised, agreed with Strauss and reckons the tactic will "rattle" Murray.

"We legally put a lot of pressure on him. We identified that they don't really put any blockers in there to try and shield him from anyone coming through, so all we try to do is come through and tackle him before he gets the ball away," he said.

"There's no malice, no ill-will or intent there, we're just playing the game of rugby. We maybe had one challenge which was a little bit late but that's for the referee to look at.

"Again, we'll do everything to make it as uncomfortable as possible for him, but on the side of the law. He got rattled."

Teams

SCOTLAND - Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Allan Dell, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Richie Gray, Jonny Gray; Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson, Josh Strauss. Replacements: Ross Ford, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Tim Swinson, John Barclay, Ali Price, Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett.

IRELAND - Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo; Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, Devin Toner; CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Niall Scannell, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, Kieran Marmion, Ian Keatley, Tommy Bowe.

 

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