RELATIONS BETWEEN IRISH and Scottish rugby players have been a little fiery in recent times.
Munster and Glasgow squared up to each other on a number of occasions in their recent Champions Cup tie, after which Conor Murray complained that the Warriors had attempted to deliberately injure him.
There was the Keith Earls vs. Fraser Brown spat too, when the Ireland wing apologised to the Glasgow hooker over then phone, then seemed to row back publicly, before making it clear he did want to apologise.
Ireland and Scotland clashed last year in Dublin. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Have a look back at last year’s Six Nations game in Dublin for further evidence – there were shoving matches after tries, grappling contests over the touchlines, and Scottish anger at perceived play-acting by Johnny Sexton.
It could be interesting in Murrayfield on Saturday in more ways than one.
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“A very physical game,” says Scotland centre Alex Dunbar, a Glasgow player, when asked what they’re expecting from Ireland.
“We have played Munster a few times already. We know they will have a physical edge. For us, we have to be switched on and start the game well.
“It was a couple of gruelling games we played against Munster. We are going to have to go even higher than that. [Ireland] have a lot of great players who are playing well. We have to impose ourselves on them.”
Nothing quite warms Six Nations supporters like a bit of what the great Bill McLaren used to call ‘argy-bargy,’ and the Edinburgh crowd may well have their appetite sated this weekend.
Of course, there will be much more to this contest than the confrontation and aggression, particularly with some fresh-looking midfield combinations ready to be unleashed.
With the influential Jared Payne absent for Ireland, Garry Ringrose is in pole position to start outside Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton – if the out-half is indeed fit.
‘They’ve got some very good direct runners in Henshaw and Ringrose,” says Scotland backs coach Jason O’Halloran of the Ireland midfield. “I think Ringrose, in particular, has really good pace.
Ireland’s midfield could be a key strength. Source: Colm O’Neill/INPHO
‘They use loop plays with Jonny Sexton a lot, and the fact that they can be so physical and tie down the midfield allows him scope for that.
‘That’s something they’ve always done really well and it will continue to be a theme as long as Joe [Schmidt] is their coach.”