Luck of the Irish? Not in the Six Nations 2012. First round defeat at home, a match postponed, then when it looked like they'd got back on track with a big win over Italy and a barnstormer in Paris, injury strikes again. At 4.7, is it worth backing Scotland to add to Declan Kidney's misery?
No team in the world would be unaffected by the absence of Paul O'Connell. The man is a mountain, a monster, a mighty front five dynamo who also happens to be in great form. However, I do like his replacement. Donnacha Ryan is a hard man, there are no bleach blonde locks for this behemoth and, like the player he's standing in for, he's astute too. I've been impressed by his displays for Munster and he won't be daunted by the challenge on Saturday.
Ireland will buoyed by what they achieved in Paris. Few people gave them any chance of stopping France, myself amongst them, but on the day they were magnificent. Their blitz defence overwhelmed Les Bleus, had them running up blind alleys and passing on rubbish ball. Aurelien Rougerie, one of the coolest customers in world rugby, was forced into a major error by the indefatigable Irish.
They couldn't sustain it though. Their energy levels dropped after the break and France had the quality to take advantage. That's the difference between Ireland and Wales. The latter have managed to perform for 80 minutes, whereas Ireland could only do it for 40.
If Scotland are to take anything from this match they need to do what Ireland did in Paris. It might surprise you to hear that I like this Scots team and I don't think they've been abysmal, as some have argued, in this tournament. They've now scored three tries, I was particularly pleased with Stuart Hogg's effort against France, but they still need to stop conceding soft scores in the second-half. If they can tighten up in defence, they will give themselves a chance of nicking something here.
The safe bet is to back Ireland to prevail, probably by under 12.5 points at 2.56, but brave punters will back Scotland pre-match with a view to trading out if their odds narrow in the first-half. Tommy Bowe is 1.22 to finish as Six Nations top tryscorer. Having crossed the whitewash five times already he's just one score off my tournament record.
2pts Back Ireland to win by under 12.5 points @ 2.56
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