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Other side: Vern faces tough task to get one over Joe

By Michael Sadlier

All week it's been slowly building, with more nuggets of information coming out about how Scotland coach Vern Cotter and his Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt forged such a close working relationship in previous times.

They dovetailed perfectly back home in their early days in New Zealand and then, much more notably, in France when Cotter was head coach at Clermont.

They know each other so well that today's game is as much a battle for supremacy between the coaches as it will be about the teams that take the field. If only Cotter could get his side to play with sustained confidence.

He has made two changes from England with Ryan Grant coming in at loosehead prop for Alasdair Dickinson, and Adam Ashe at blindside flanker - then he might be getting somewhere.

There is quality though. Stuart Hogg is a vital part of Scotland's armoury with his excellence from broken play while Tommy Seymour is also performing well and Mark Bennett looks a centre of real quality.

But Scotland lack consistency throughout the side and, vitally, lack direction at half-back while, up front, Jonny Gray ploughs a reasonably lonely furrow with only flanker Blair Cowan and perhaps some work from No 8 David Denton causing opposing sides concern.

Second row Jim Hamilton may try to reprise his antics from 2013 which so distracted Rory Best's lineout throwing, but if Scotland are going to pull off a major shock then all parts of Cotter's side will have to be functioning at a level not yet seen in this Championship.

And that may cost Vern dearly when it comes to bragging rights with Joe.

Belfast Telegraph


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