Scotland v Ireland: Everything you need to know

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Many consider Ireland as the best-placed side to halt England's juggernaut at the Six Nations this year and recent history is in their favour ahead of an opening-round trip to Scotland.

Joe Schmidt's side was ravaged by injury 12 months ago as Ireland relinquished their grip on a crown they had won two years running.

But since that mixed tournament, Ireland have racked up wins over New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in a calendar year for the first time and - even in the absence of injured talisman Jonathan Sexton at Murrayfield on Saturday - are blessed with a wealth of talent. 

Moreover, Scotland have managed just three wins in their past 17 contests against Ireland, including four straight defeats.

However, the match marks the start of a farewell Six Nations for head coach Vern Cotter, who will be replaced by Gregor Townsend in June, and Scotland will be keen to send the New Zealander out on a high note.

Many pundits see this as Scotland's strongest squad for some time and home matches with Ireland and Wales may prove crucial.

 

HEAD TO HEAD

Scotland: 66
Ireland: 61
Draw: 5

 

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2016?

The 2016 Six Nations was a mixed bag for Ireland, but they went out on a high with a 35-25 win in Dublin. 

The 10-point margin belied Ireland's dominance, although Stuart Hogg produced the moment of the match with a storming solo try - albeit scores from CJ Stander and Keith Earls saw Ireland lead at the break.

Conor Murray and Devin Toner also touched down either side of Richie Gray's try, while Alex Dunbar's late effort was a mere consolation for Scotland as Ireland secured third place with their second win of the tournament.


KEY PLAYERS

Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
The marauding full-back emphasised his importance to Scotland by winning the Player of the Tournament in 2016. Hogg helped end a run of nine Six Nations defeats by creating two tries in the win over Italy and scored a wonderful solo try in the loss to Ireland. A strong ball carrier, no player (of those who played in 10 international fixtures or more) made more metres per game than Hogg in international rugby last year.

Garry Ringrose (Ireland) 
Ringrose - the youngest member of Ireland's squad at 22 - stands out as a player with world-class potential. The centre has only won three international caps and is yet to play in the Six Nations, but has already drawn comparisons to the legendary Brian O'Driscoll. Ringrose demonstrated his talent with his first Ireland try in the 27-24 win over Australia and rarely makes mistakes with ball in hand.


THE LINE-UPS

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain); Allan Dell, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson, Josh Strauss.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong. Iain Henderson, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.


COACH COMMENTS

Vern Cotter (Scotland): "It is an intense, brutal, feudal competition - and also one that's great to be involved in...Ireland have just beaten the All Blacks, they've beaten Australia and South Africa. These are not one-off results."

Joe Schmidt (Ireland): "There's no one more frustrated than Johnny (Sexton) himself. He was incredibly motivated for this championship. In the Six Nations campaigns that I've been involved in, Johnny has dominated our number 10 position, so we're still hopeful he can come back in and do that for us."


OPTA STATSs

- Ireland have lost just three of 17 opening-day games in the Six Nations since 2000, losing to Wales in 2012, France in 2004 and England in 2000.

- Scotland have not won their opening match of a Six Nations campaign since beating France in 2006, which is in fact the only time they have won their opener since Italy joined the competition in 2000.

- Ireland have recorded more wins (61) and scored more tries (220) against Scotland than any other nation. If they score 25 points in this match they will reach 1,500 points scored against their Celtic neighbours.