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Ireland’s strength in depth to prove decisive in race for World Cup selection

14 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Ireland’s strength in depth to prove decisive in race for World Cup selection

Experienced heads can secure another convincing win for boys in green as both Ireland and Scotland give their second string a chance to shine

With rugby’s showpiece tournament now just over one month away, the scramble for World Cup places is well and truly on.

As coaches continue to separate the wheat from the chaff by shrinking their provisional squads towards a final party, the time has come for those still with a point to prove to make hay.

That is the task facing the men who will line up for both Ireland and Scotland in Dublin on Saturday, with both Joe Schmidt and Vern Cotter naming experimental sides in a bid to help answer some lingering questions.

Ireland certainly got their World Cup preparations off to the perfect start with a 35-21 victory over Wales in Cardiff last weekend.

However, the vast majority who took to the field at the Millennium Stadium are also expected to do so when Ireland kick off their tournament against Canada at the same venue on 19 September.

As a result, it is hard to say exactly what was learnt from the exercise – other than it officially made Ireland the second best side in the world according to the IRB rankings.

Perhaps that is why Schmidt has decided to name 14 changes to his side for this weekend, with prop Mike Ross the only man to retain his place – continuing his remarkable record of starting every game under the Kiwi since he took over nearly two years ago.

With new faces all over the pitch, the most intriguing audition will take place in the back row after flanker Tommy O’Donnelly was ruled out of the tournament last weekend with a dislocated hip.

The two main contenders to fill his boots both start on Saturday, with 23-year-old Jack Conlan making his international debut and the more experienced Chris Henry appearing for the first time since undergoing heart surgery towards the end of last year.

Also hoping to earn a final hurrah is Gordon D’Arcy – veteran of 81 caps and two World Cups – who has already announced that he will be retiring after this year’s tournament regardless of whether or not he makes it onto the plane.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s biggest pre-tournament headache also comes in the backline – not just in terms of who to play but also where.

Greig Tonks – usually deployed at inside centre – has recently stated his desire to move to fly-half, and will be given the chance to prove he is up to the job on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Wasps’ number 10 Ruaridh Jackson will start at full-back, the position usually held by British and Irish Lion Stuart Hogg and coveted by winger Sean Maitland.

With former number eight Richie Vernon also starting his first international game in his new position of outside centre, one can’t help but wonder if the Scottish conundrum behind the scrum would be more easily resolved with a game of musical chairs.

They will have to find their feet quickly, because their opposite numbers boast plenty of experience and quality.

Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne and Luke Fitzgerald all started in Ireland’s 40-10 victory the last time these two sides met, and together could help ensure another comfortable win over their Celtic cousins.

7/1 – Ireland to win by 26-30 points

Ireland v Scotland match betting