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Scots need to bring canny combination of chaos and control


Pressure on: Finn Russell is Scotland's key man
Pressure on: Finn Russell is Scotland's key man

By Michael Sadlier

It looks so easy to pigeon-hole this one that it's little wonder the canny Scots are talking about bringing chaos and confusion to Dublin 4.

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A case of Scotland's free-flowing idealism and guile versus Ireland's hard-nosed pragmatism and power-plays.

Of course, it's not that simple, and Scotland know that only a combination of them hitting their straps again and, crucially, Ireland being as woeful as England were at the breakdown gives Gregor Townsend's squad a sniff at this one and staying in the title race.

Throw in Scotland's awful away record in the Six Nations - the last time they tasted victory, outside winning in Rome, was against Ireland back in 2010 - and it looks a pretty tough ask to derail Joe Schmidt et al as they bid to stay on course for a Grand Slam bid at Twickenham on St Patrick's Day.

The Scots do have the means of unsettling Ireland, but will have to be even smarter than they were against England.

They are, of course, intent on using the power and pace of centre Huw Jones, and with yet another Ireland midfield combination that looks to be a no-brainer, as well as exploring the open spaces which can be found by the excellent Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland.

But Townsend is no off-the-cuff coach. His intelligence will not only have identified that Ireland can be found wanting with some of their wide defending, but that damage can also be done by playing at an impressively high tempo, with huge accuracy at the all-important breakdown.

Magnificent skipper John Barclay and flanker Hamish Watson have the ability to provide quick recycle as well as effectively slowing it down for the opposition and winning penalties.

If the Scots can do this, in particular latching themselves onto the Irish ball to earn shots at goal, then Greig Laidlaw's boot can give them a very useful foothold in the game.

But to win, they will need Finn Russell firing on all cylinders.

Much has been made of how the sometimes flaky Scot really can't match Ireland's key playmaker Johnny Sexton.

But Russell possesses an impressive armoury of kicks to get in behind Ireland as well as having the distribution skills to get Jones and Hogg involved.

Get it all right and the Scots might yet do what both France and Wales failed to achieve.

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