Alan Quinlan is backing Ireland to be too strong for Scotland on Saturday after the returns from injury of Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson.
The British & Irish Lions duo missed out in round three through injury as Ireland took one step closer to a Grand Slam with a hard-fought win over Wales.
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But Furlong is back and will start this weekend while Henderson will add impact from the bench against a Scotland side who downed England last time out to throw their hat back into the title tilt.
And while Ulster Bank ambassador Quinlan, who also works as a co-commentator for official NatWest 6 Nations Irish broadcaster TV3, is quick to point out that Joe Schmidt’s side cannot afford to underestimate the Scots.
He still thinks they will be too strong on Saturday and will make it four from four.
“You can’t underestimate the Scots in any way, they have a lot of threats and are full of confidence but I just think there is too much at stake for Ireland,” said Quinlan who won 27 caps for Ireland between 1999-2008.
“It’s massive with Furlong and Henderson back in the group so I think Ireland will be a little bit stronger a bit more structured, with the home advantage and probably win by ten points.
“Home advantage does play an important part but certainly no-one will underestimate Scotland after their performance against England.
“The danger is, do people take their eyes off the ball and look ahead to an England game next week?
“That’s a very dangerous proposition, so Joe Schmidt and the Irish players will be really just trying to focus on getting a performance against Scotland, winning the match.”
According to Quinlan, who only ever lost one game in this Championship, Ireland are yet to properly get out of third gear this tournament.
But with their Lions duo back, the battle of the breakdown will force them to up their game again.
“Ireland have probably been in third gear so far in this tournament, with maybe a bit of fourth,” he added.
“But they will certainly be looking to improve again, they know Scotland are a very dangerous side. it’s a tricky game for them no doubt about that.
“To have Henderson and Furlong back is massive for Ireland, they are world-class players.
“There was a lot of concern when they didn’t play against Wales. Andrew Porter and Devin Toner did fantastically well against Wales but we were worried about them, there is no doubt about that.
“Furlong and Henderson are two Lions players, two guys getting better and better all the time so to have them both back for these final games is a massive boost for Joe Schmidt.
“The back row is the real area where Scotland caused massive concern for England and stopped their flow.
“Ireland struggle when the ball is slowed down and we cannot play with tempo and control the game ourselves so that will be a key area.”