Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend doesn’t envisage Ireland posing any less of a threat in next year’s Championship despite the absence of Joe Schmidt.
Townsend’s men face a trip to Dublin first up on February 1 but will be confronted by a green machine with former defence coach Andy Farrell having stepped into Schmidt’s shoes as head coach.
Farrell has coached for the best part of a decade since hanging up his boots in 2009 but will inherit an Ireland squad that could only finish third in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations and lost to New Zealand in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
However Townsend, who will take charge of Scotland for his third Guinness Six Nations next year, will expect nothing less than the best from the team that beat them 22-13 at BT Murrayfield back in February.
“In first game of a Championship you are expecting the other team to do something different anyway,” Townsend told the Official Scottish Rugby Podcast.
“Their coaching staff hasn’t changed that much apart from the head coach and obviously Joe Schmidt had great success and huge influence over the way they played.
“Andy Farrell was obviously their defence coach too but we will wait and see because I don’t think Ireland will move too far away from what have been their strengths over the last few years.
“Leinster, Munster and Ulster are all playing so well at the moment and I would even say that Leinster’s second XV is probably in the top five teams in Europe.
“We know it will be a big challenge because we have the motivation of knowing we didn’t play anywhere near as well as we could have done last year.
“We have got to be at our most accurate in order to win away from home against a team like Ireland whatever happens.”