RWC23: Ireland v Scotland preview in 10 quotes

Players and pundits have their say on what to expect from this evening's Pool B decider in Paris

Scotland take on Ireland in Paris tonight with a place the quarter-finals of the World Cup up for grabs. Image: © Craig Watson -
Scotland take on Ireland in Paris tonight with a place the quarter-finals of the World Cup up for grabs. Image: © Craig Watson -

No one travels like the Irish, I’d say that’s a fact. We played in Bordeaux and Nantes and then at this incredible arena the other week – it’s something you can’t really describe or put into words, the anthems, Fields of Athenry, ‘Zombie’ at the end. It’s amazing, honestly. People are saying 60,000 Irish are travelling over this weekend and their presence is definitely felt.  It’s something we are so happy to be on receiving end of so many positive and influential Irish supporters.

Ireland winger James Lowe

They are on a brilliant run and are obviousdly the number one team in the world. There have been moments in the games we’ve had against them specifically where, if we had taken them, potentially the outcome could have been different.

Playing these top two, three, four sides in the world, you’ll only get a handful of opportunities and it’s about taking them.

That’s where we have maybe come unstuck in the last couple of years. For us, it’s about having a good week and making the most of these opportunities.

Every team will have to win a big moment five or six times within an 80 minutes.

Scotland’s recalled scrum-half Ali Price

Ireland competed at one in every two rucks against South Africa. It was not only back-row players such as Caelan Doris and Josh van der Flier doing that, it was the wings James Lowe and Mack Hansen, centre Garry Ringrose, full back Hugo Keenan, and even replacement scrum half Conor Murray going really hard at ruck time. It is clearly something that is being coached, although in fairness Scotland’s ruck-to-tackle ratio was 0.4 against South Africa.

Aside from South Africa, Ireland are the most dangerous side at counter-rucking. Even if they do not win the ball back, they are so good at slowing down the ball.

Ireland’s kicking is vital to all this too, with credit due to Jonny Sexton. They do not make what I call “grey area” kicks. They are either one or the other. They either kick short to compete, where Lowe, Hansen and Keenan are brilliant in the air, or kick extremely long for territory, where they orchestrate a superb chase, always coming up in a line altogether. This is the unseen work that is so critical to their success.

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton writing in The Times newspaper

We feel the game is going to be one which is hugely physical, and we know how crucial quick ball is to our success in our attack.

To help that we felt another back-rower [on the bench] would bring that freshness, energy and aggression that will be required for us to keep producing quick ball and defensively slow down the opposition.

We just felt that Luke Crosbie’s aggression on both sides of the ball [was what we needed]. His performance against Romania was outstanding. He didn’t get mentioned that much after the game but the amount of rucks he hit, the tough carries he had to do in an 80 minute performance showed us that he’s ready to make a difference.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend

[Talking about Peter O’Mahony, who is winning his 100th Ireland cap]

To sum him up, he’s selfless. You guys would see the performance on the pitch and it’s heroic from Pete. You can see what it means for him to play for Ireland. But we obviously see behind the scenes and he’s definitely, 100 per cent, one of the best I’ve ever seen at making the dressing room feel right.

And it’s not just a skill. It’s him being himself because it’s genuine and I’m sure Johnny would echo this, that there’s no better man that you would want sat at the side of you in the dressing room at the weekend than Peter O’Mahony.

He’s a selfless player that gives everything to his team-mates, a fantastic team-mate, top-drawer as far as a team-mate is concerned and he backs that up with consistent performances week in, week out for Ireland and for Munster.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell

With both Blair Kinghorn and Finn Russell, their decision making, ability to see space and use their wingers is a real threat. They are world-class at seeing a game unfold and looking for opportunities. We talk about making good decisions off the ball so we are closing off gaps and not giving them opportunities to see too much. South Africa in that second half did a good job of containing Scotland.

From the very start, we need to make sure we are on our feet, connected in defence and making good decisions to go to where we’re needed, so we limit what they see and put as much pressure on them as possible to take away that time so they can make poor decisions.

Ireland assistant coach John Fogarty

[Against South Africa], I thought a lot about their blitz defence and what was going to come. I was almost looking more at their defence than what we could do in attack. This week it’s more about focusing on us, what we can do to put them under pressure and score points.

Of course we will look at the Irish defence and attack but I’ll be more chatting to the boys outside me about what we are going to do, instead of thinking of what their defence is up to. It’s about going after them, taking them on and having the confidence to do that.

Scotland stand-off Finn Russell

Doubtless, Ireland are better than Scotland individually and collectively, but there have been some interesting adjustments to Scotland’s game under Gregor Townsend. Now they have a consistent structure and framework for attacking. And within that framework they have created some nice options for decision-makers to pull the trigger on.

With Finn Russell, they have the X factor already, but they needed a strong framework for him to work within. Once upon a (recent) time, it was ‘pull a rabbit out of the hat please, Finn’, and when he couldn’t do that, Russell would get frustrated, and lose games. There’s a deeper player trust in the plan now, and it comes down to Russell’s decision on when it’s time to play his hand. If he plays it too soon or forces it, it becomes a double negative.

There could be nothing for him in the first 50 minutes and that’s fine, but good players let the ball work until, bang, they see the half-gap and he is through the hole. Forcing it doesn’t work at this level, irrespective who you are.

Former Ireland stand-off Ronan O’Gara writing in the Irish Examiner

We don’t look into that {Ireland eight-match winning streak against Scotland] a massive amount. You look at the last game, but you don’t look at the seven before. Rugby is ever-changing and always evolving. I think they are flying at the minute.

I was really impressed with their warm-up games with France. I was really impressed in how they’ve performed in the tournament so far albeit I’d imagine they’re disappointed with the South Africa performance.

They have come on a lot since the Six Nations and they had a really good Six Nations. They were flying there as well. It is going to be a huge challenge for us.

Ireland tight-head prop Tadhg Furlong

Over the last year and a bit we’ve had some physical games and we’ve stood up to teams. We back ourselves against any team on our day. In international rugby, if you switch off for five or 10 minutes that’s when you can get punished.

We matched Ireland in the Six Nations, but in a 10 minute spell they scored a couple of tries and it was game over. For these big emotional games we need to rock up and get that balance right. We’ll take it to them on Saturday.

It can be tough sometimes. We have played in some emotional games. When we play England in the Six Nations we always seem to get the emotional balance right. It’s bringing that heart and passion but having clear heads and not letting anything rattle us.

Scotland tight-head Zander Fagerson

RWC23: Ireland v Scotland: Gregor Townsend looks for big bench impact

About David Barnes 4012 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. It all goes back to the rugby structure in Scotland a Super League nobody wants, which has a team with no ground and no history, SRU officials play for us or you won’t go any further with your career. if a young Jona Loma came through the Scottish system he would have to toe the line even if circumstances made that impossible, through work or studies

  2. How often in these big games do we fail to turn up?
    Tactics and team selection (with hindsight ) were all wrong.
    I have said for months now the Huwipulotu partnership,isn’t delivering. Harris and Redpath in the centres with Watson in the back row and Steyn on the wing and we would not have lost a few of those tries and end up chasing the game the way we did.
    With the chosen selection it was obvious we were going to run the ball and go gung-ho for the try bonus from the off. You have to earn the right to go for it perhaps after 50 minutes of living with the Irish we could have freshened up the team and went for it, but to throw caution to the wind from minute 1 , we deserved what we got.
    No idea what has happened to our defence. 6N 2022 we had the tightest in the tournament , not so in 23 and definitely not so tonight. We have won too many games recently by scoring more than the other team but that is not a sustainable way forward.
    The meek capitulation would not have happened under Cotter or Telfer. Once again I feel Townsend time has come to move on.

  3. I’m as frustrated as everyone else undoubtedly is… not at losing to a phenomenal Irish team, but the performance…. We turned up either thinking we had them beat, or that we couldn’t beat them…. Blown away at the breakdown despite us committing to them, going backwards in the tackle – seemed to focus on trying to get choke tackles as opposed to winning the mental battle of hitting people back, and ran out of ideas when the game plan didn’t work…. To get the best out our 23, we have to get the mental approach right and we seem a long long way off that…. I rate Toonie but now believe that he’s taken this squad as far as he can and he‘s not what this squad need to take them to the next level when they actually fulfill their potential…

    And please can the SRU stop talking them up, and let them do the taking on the pitch – I’d rather see a captain say that we were sh.t and storm off from a press conference and do something about it!

  4. I think part of the blame does lie with the players for sure. That was a very telegraphed performance.

    But largely the fault lies with SRU for our RWC exit. I have heard “we are building” so many times but all I saw was an utter dismantling. The we are building statement is only relevant if you go on to use what you have built.

    It appears that Dodsons salary is strangling the grass roots and subsequently the rest of Scottish rugby.

    If there has been one take away from the RWC cycle, it’s that we have gone backwards.

  5. I’m not going to be down on the players or Townsend. Bottom line is we don’t have the power to beat a team like Ireland unless they’re having a real off day (which was never going to happen tonight). The alarm bells were ringing when the Boks made double our metre/ carry in the 1st fixture.

    We were overcommitted around the ruck so Ireland always had space out wide and when we attacked we ran out of men and got isolated.

    We’ve been relying on some phenomenal backs to paper over these cracks in the forwards but there are limits to what they can do + we lost one of our best in Kinghorn early.

    Darge is the archetypal Scottish player. I think hes great, but hes dynamic, high work rate, fast not big. I think there is an issue with him and Ritchie in the same backrow and I thought Crosbie made a difference.

    We can’t clone Crosbie so what else can we do? Maybe there’s some prototype Jim Telfer Townsend could bring in on the coaching staff who might make a difference. Who?

    Ireland are good. They have no real weaknesses. No 1 team in the world. If they get past the Kiwis the only team I could see beating them is France.

    • My issue is that, even at their strongest, Ireland do nothing fancy. They do the easy stuff excellently and consistently. We perform barely adequately at periods and our attack suffers from starvation when the defence we’re up against is worth their salt – first half against Georgia in the RWC warm up is a perfect example. We’ve become a one trick pony that can’t even perform its one trick.

    • >They have no real weaknesses.

      This. They are a hive mind.

      They also know how to take advantage of our weaknesses.

  6. We looked really second rate tonight with what should be a competitive team, why?? We just don’t seem as street wise or clinical when needed – that has been the same message for the last 3 decades. Don’t get me wrong, Ireland were miles better and deserved to win but some of the referring decisions were awful. Irish foot in touch, probable obstruction for first try, Andrew Porter supporting weight on the ground before reaching for the ball, same re Gibson Park and probably more. We were really poor in fronting up first half, hard to pick out someone who really stood up in the match at all. But to be fair, there’s a big gap between the top 4 and the rest and we knew the ridiculous draw was against us, but I still think we’d rightly be 3rd in the 6N table and need to find a way to compete with the very best which is so hard given our limited player pool. 5th in the world is a real achievement and well deserved – a properly run WRU would make sure our achievements are recognised.

    • Our playing pool is not that limited. There’s no strategy for the future of Scottish rugby. It’s all been for this RWC and clearly that wasn’t enough. None of it was.

    • Forward power.
      Ireland’s power at the breakdown made space for them in attack and isolated us in attack.

    • We were never 5th in world we just had a run of fixtures which became a statistical anomaly….we are nowhere near the top sides and if Wales n English replace their dinosaur coaches we will b scrapping with Italy to avoid 6n relegation because noone in Scottish rugby believes in actually changing things. Ireland 15 years ago were in our place and got rid of the servile losers mentality and invested in Irish youth development…..we have invested in anyone but Scottish youth development and we are plummeting to 2nd tier at a rate of knots

  7. Imagine being condescending to the critics whilst coming out with ****e like this being the best Scotland team ever….😂

  8. A thrashing! Those players who were talking a good game in the lead up were proved to be paper dummies. Showed they didn’t believe what they were mouthing. Townsend deserves everything he is going to cop. Dodson, we are coming after you, you greedy fraud.

  9. Never mind 10 quotes, I will give you one. Nothing has changed in the 4 years since the last World Cup. It’s as if we haven’t learned a lesson about how Ireland will play. If I can sit watching the telly predicting Peter O’Mahony will be thrown the ball in the line out why is it a surprise to the Scotland pack? No trick plays, no tactical nous, just easy to defend one up runners and no line speed. Townsends having a laugh whilst taking a wage.


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