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Six Nations | Group Stage
Mar 16, 2024 at 4.45pm UK
Sheehan (13'), Porter (65')
Jones (77')

Preview: Ireland vs. Scotland - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Six Nations clash between Ireland and Scotland, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Despite suffering an against-the-odds defeat last week, Ireland are still in the driver's seat to defend their Six Nations title and will look to do so when they play host to Scotland in their final match of this year's competition on Super Saturday.

Ireland head into this fixture as clear favourites to overcome their Scottish opponents, and the support of their home crowd should provide them a significant advantage, similar to what we saw for England at Twickenham last week.

Match preview

Ireland's James Lowe celebrates scoring their second try on March 9, 2024© Reuters

In round four at Twickenham, Ireland's Grand Slam hopes were dashed as they were narrowly defeated 23-22 by England, courtesy of a drop-goal from Marcus Smith with the last kick of the game.

That outcome marked the end of Ireland's streak of 11 consecutive victories in the Six Nations, which equalled the longest winning run in this version of the competition, previously held by England between 2015 and 2017.

Ireland currently leads the standings with 16 points, holding a four-point advantage over second-placed England. If the Shamrocks secure any type of victory or even manage a draw in their upcoming match, they will clinch the title for a second consecutive year. Additionally, a losing bonus point could potentially be sufficient for them to secure the championship.

Earlier in the competition, Andy Farrell's side secured bonus point victories at home over Wales (31-7) in round three and Italy (36-0) in round two. Their campaign began with a 38-17 victory over France in Marseille, where they ran in five tries after Les Bleus had a player sent off.

Securing a victory against the English would have guaranteed another title for Ireland with a match remaining. However, they now face the task of ensuring they do not squander their chances late on, reminiscent of their recent World Cup quarter-final disappointment in the autumn.

Scotland's Huw Jones reacts on February 3, 2024© Reuters

Meanwhile, barring their win over England, Scotland's performance in this campaign is likely to leave them disappointed once more, as they look set to end the tournament in the bottom half of the standings.

Indeed, a victory in Dublin this weekend would certainly improve their overall outlook, but it also carries the outside chance of handing the title to England, which will undoubtedly be an even more bitter pill to swallow.

Last week, Gregor Townsend's side were heavily fancied for their trip to Rome, but despite opening up a 12-point lead in the first half, they were eventually pegged back and beaten 31-29 by a steadily improving Italy.

Before that, the Bravehearts secured a 30-21 home victory over England in round three and suffered a 20-16 defeat to France in contentious circumstances at Murrayfield in round two, as what they thought was the winning try was disallowed by the TMO in the final moments.

Thus, the Scots now enter the final round in third place with 11 points, trailing Ireland by five points. For them to overtake the Shamrocks in the standings, it would require a bonus point victory for Scotland and a significant shift in points difference (77), which, in fairness, seems improbable.

Ireland Six Nations form:

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Ireland form (all competitions):

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Scotland Six Nations form:

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Scotland form (all competitions):

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Team News

Ireland's Dan Sheehan celebrates after the match on September 28, 2023© Reuters

Farrell has opted for an unchanged 15 from the squad that suffered a surprise defeat against England at Twickenham in round four, providing them with the chance to rectify the shortcomings from that match.

Hugo Keenan, Calvin Nash and James Lowe form the back three, while Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw will play in midfield. Jack Crowley and Jamison Gibson-Park remain at half-back, while in the forward pack, the loose trio consists of Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and captain Peter O'Mahony.

Townsend has made only two changes to the lineup for the 2024 Six Nations match against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, both of which are in the backline.

After Cameron Redpath started at inside centre last week in place of the injured Sione Tuipulotu, Townsend has once again made a change in the number 12 jersey, with Stafford McDowall earning his first Six Nations cap.

The other change sees George Horne starting on the bench as Ben White returns to the starting lineup, partnering with Finn Russell at fly-half. The forward pack remains unchanged, with Rory Darge teaming up with blindside flanker Andy Christie and number eight Jack Dempsey.

Ireland starting lineup: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O'Mahony (c), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Garry Ringrose

Scotland starting lineup: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Stafford McDowall, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell (cc), 9 Ben White, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Rory Darge (cc), 6 Andy Christie, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Pierre Schoeman

Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Elliot Millar-Mills, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 George Horne, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Kyle Rowe

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We say: Ireland 27-17 Scotland

While the title is not yet wrapped up, it will take a huge collapse for Ireland to throw it away now. The Shamrocks will be furious following their defeat at Twickenham last week, and we feel Scotland may face the brunt of their retaliation to that result on Saturday.

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England's Marcus Smith celebrates with teammates after scoring a drop goal on March 9, 2024
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