Best wants Ireland to mount strong finish


Rory Best is eager for Ireland to finish their Six Nations campaign in a strong fashion by defeating Scotland in Dublin on Saturday.

After a 16-16 draw with Wales in their opening match, defending champions Ireland fell to successive defeats against France and England.

Joe Schmidt's team finally ended their winless tournament with a nine-try thumping of Italy in a 58-15 victory, but a third straight title is out of reach.

Nevertheless, Ireland captain Best wants the team to build on that result and finish on a high.

"I think it was the win last week that gave us that [hunger], it's a bit of a monkey off our back to get a win in the championship," he told Irish Rugby TV.

"We've trained really well, probably since the England game. There's a real hunger and desire to finish this campaign off strong, to keep improving and keep getting better at the things we haven't done so well in this championship."

After wins against Italy and France, Scotland are bidding to win three consecutive Six Nations matches for the first time.

However, they have been victorious just once when facing Ireland in Dublin in this competition, that victory coming back in 2010.

Scotland fell to a 40-10 defeat to Ireland in last year's edition and Ross Ford - set for his 99th cap - is looking for revenge.

"We will use last season's game a little bit for motivation. It has been mentioned. It would be silly if you didn't look back at it," he said.

"We just want to do ourselves justice by putting in a good performance. We understand what their threats are, but it always comes back to what we can affect during the game.

"It does help that we're fairly settled and it seems to work for us, so we'll just carry on in that vein."

Schmidt has opted to rest Josh van der Flier and introduce Tommy O'Donnell in his only change from the XV that trounced Italy - Rob Kearney failing to recover from a hamstring issue in time.

Scotland have lost Jonny Gray and Finn Russell to injury, so Tim Swinson and Duncan Weir are drafted into the line-up.


Key Opta Stats:
- This will be the 122nd meeting between these sides in Five/Six Nations history; Scotland have won 59 of those games to Ireland's 57 (D5).
- Joe Schmidt is yet to lose any of his seven home games in the Six Nations (W6, D1); the last time Ireland lost in Dublin in the competition was in 2013 (v England).
- Scotland are one try away from scoring their 100th in the Six Nations, they will be the last team in the competition to reach this milestone.
- Greig Laidlaw needs just two points to become the third Scotland player to reach 500 points in Test rugby, while Jonathan Sexton (559) needs two points to overtake David Humphreys (560) and become Ireland's second higest scoring player (Ronan O'Gara - 1083).