Guinness Six Nations rivals Ireland and Scotland will do battle in less familiar circumstances on Sunday, locking horns in a Pool A fixture at Rugby World Cup 2019.
Neither team will want to lose momentum in their Rugby World Cup opener, which will be the team’s first meeting outside of Dublin or Edinburgh since 1910 – a game that Scotland won 14-0 in Belfast. The 72,000-seater International Stadium in Yokohama will host the fixture this time.
Ireland will enter the fixture knowing they have outscored their opponents 72-48 over the last three meetings. Those meetings comprise wins for Ireland in 2019 and 2018, and a famous victory for Scotland on the opening weekend of Championship 2017.
Scotland have scored first in each of those three encounters, and will no doubt hope to follow suit this time around. That trend for starting strongly is a sustained one. Scotland have have scored 62.2% (97 of 156) of their points against Ireland since 2010 in the first half of matches, with eight of 11 tries, 15 of 29 penalties or drop goals and six of seven successful conversions all scored in the first half.
From the Irish side, half-back is potentially key. In the side’s previous four Championship outings, either Ireland’s scrum-half or fly-half have dotted down for a try, the key protagonist for Ireland being Conor Murray, who has three in his last four against Scotland. Murray has not scored more tries against any other nation in world rugby.
And while there have been some changes to the side behind the scrum, Irish fans may also take heart from the consistency of selection in the front row. With Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong named to start, it is the first time in 15 years that the men-in-green have selected the same trio in three successive matches against Scotland.