We’ve grown accustomed to warm up games being an open playing field for new players and combinations, but 14 changes and seemingly no dip in quality across the 23? Unprecedented.
Scotland look set to present a bigger challenge than Wales last week, mainly down to the most first choice team they can possibly choose taking the field, so Joe Schmidt isn’t taking any chances. Yet front liners like Jonathan Sexton, Connor Murray, Rory Best and more are all sidelined. Of course injury plays it’s part and the fixture against Wales in two weeks time could tip close to competitive test level but more importantly – this is a Schmidt squad. Nobody is nailed on, everyone plays their part.
Amongst those who will be most eager to play their part and stake a claim is Jack Conan. With Tommy O’Donnell cruelly ruled out for the World Cup there’s room in the back row department and the performances of Jordi Murphy and Conan tomorrow should be extremely entertaining as both Leinster upstarts try to impress their way in before the cull. Conan could stand to gain the most though if the Scottish defence remains as shaky as it was in the Six Nations, such is his explosive ability in the loose.
Scotland showed the ability to be dangerous in the spring but the relics of the last decade or so lingered – finishing off the routine eludes the Scots repeatedly. The back line taking to the pitch tomorrow is electric to say the least and many coaches would kill to have it, but the likes of Sean Lamont and Tim Visser are routinely successful in traversing the length of the pitch with no finish coming. Glasgow being the bulk suppliers to the national side has to reap benefits eventually however; their domestic league form is second to none and just as it did with Ireland the prowess will carry over.
After last weekend a win for Ireland seems extremely likely tomorrow. What needs to be done in order to cement that however lies in the final 20 minutes against Wales. Once the bench was emptied and fatigue set in, Ireland opened up a little too much. Had Wales been even ten percent more up to speed things could’ve been very different. Expecting the same levels of rust on Scotland would be a mistake and Ireland need to maintain the standard. Few would doubt them to do so.