‘We expect a big showing from Ireland, not just because they lost their game’

SCOTLAND ARE BRACING themselves for a big performance from Joe Schmidt’s Ireland at Murrayfield on Saturday [KO 2.15pm, Virgin Media], and not just because of their opening weekend defeat to England.

Gregor Townsend’s side opened their Six Nations campaign with a comfortable win over Italy in Edinburgh, and are hoping to inflict more woe on Ireland following Saturday’s false start at the Aviva Stadium.

Scotland beat Italy 33-20 on Saturday. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Assistant coach Mike Blair says Scotland’s plans for this weekend’s round two clash are unchanged despite Ireland’s rare off-colour performance against England, and the hosts will be expecting an almighty challenge from the defending Grand Slam champions.

“I don’t think it’s going to be any different because they lost,” Blair said on Monday.

“Ireland are a quality team, one of the top teams in the world.

“Joe Schmidt is an incredibly intelligent coach along with Andy Farrell as well. We expect a big showing from them, not just because they lost their game, it’s something we would have been expecting anyway. We know we need to be right at the top of our game to give them a game.”

Scotland, who face Ireland in September’s World Cup, are coming off the back of a bonus-point win over Conor O’Shea’s Italy, as Blair Kinghorn crossed for a hat-trick of tries.

Although they were convincing winners, concerns were raised over Scotland’s defence as they leaked three late tries after Simon Berghan was sent to the bin — but former scrum-half Blair insists there is no fundamental flaw in their defensive system.

“Obviously, there have been a few soft tries but there’s nothing wrong with the system, it’s just guys making sure they are making those smart decisions under pressure,” he continued.

“A few decisions in defence, perhaps a bit of energy lacking, meant it was a disappointing last 10 minutes certainly. But we are aware of where our standards need to be to avoid that happening in other games.”

Blair added: “The guys love playing at Murrayfield and the players know that the supporters want to come out and support them, so in turn we want to put a great performance on the pitch and get a lot of noise and support from them.” 

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