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Scotland & Ireland prepare to open Rugby World Cup campaign


Ireland have won six of the last seven meetings with Scotland
2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A: Ireland v Scotland
Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama Date: Sunday, 22 September Kick-off: 08:45 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Scotland MW and BBC Radio Ulster; plus text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Ireland and Scotland begin their World Cup campaigns on Sunday morning as the two favourites to progress from Pool A.

Coach Joe Schmidt is without first-choice centre Robbie Henshaw, and experienced back-three pair Keith Earls and Rob Kearney.

In their place come Garry Ringrose, Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has gone for experience, with a total of 630 caps shared among the starting XV.

Duncan Taylor and Sam Johnson will start together for only the second time at centre, while Ryan Wilson is preferred to Blade Thomson at number eight.

Greig Laidlaw’s experience gets him the nod ahead of Ali Price at scrum-half.

“This is the first time this squad has all been fit and available. We’re missing probably just two of three players from every available Scotland player,” Townsend said.

Scotland have been using Fairy Liquid to prepare for wet and humid conditions in Yokohama, though a forecast typhoon is not expected to affect the match.

Ireland have won five of the six meetings between the sides during Schmidt’s time in charge, the only defeat coming during the 2017 Six Nations.

“One thing I will be really confident of is that we will be tough to beat,” the Ireland head coach said. “You’ll see a very collective effort and that effort will make us tough to beat.

“I’ve no doubt the Scots are working away to make sure they’ll be something similar.”

Japan won the first match in Pool A on Friday, defeating Russia 30-10, with Samoa yet to play.

The teams

Scotland: Hogg; Seymour, Taylor, Johnson, Maitland; Russell, Laidlaw; Dell, McInally (captain), Nel, Gilchrist, Gray, Barclay, Watson, Wilson.

Replacements: Brown, Reid, Berghan, Cummings, Thomson, Price, Harris, Graham.

Ireland: Larmour; Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best (captain), Furlong; Henderson, James Ryan; O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Stander.

Replacements: Scannell, Kilcoyne, Porter, Beirne, Conan, McGrath, Carty, Farrell.

What they said

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: “I don’t think there’s a huge amount between the two teams and so whoever does maybe get the bounce of the ball or can be just a little bit more efficient than the other, it may just tip the balance.

“We know the breakdown is going to be hotly contested. There’s going to be challenges for [referee] Wayne Barnes, that’s for sure.”

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend: “You can’t disguise this as anything else than a hugely important game against a very good side. Ireland have shown in recent years that they do take their chances and they punish teams.

“We have had two of our best-ever training sessions, so as a coach, you get excited about things like that. I believe in this team as individuals and we believe we will create opportunities. On Sunday it is about taking them.”

Test your knowledge

Match stats

  • Ireland have won eight of their last 10 World Cup games but will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time since 2007 after their 2015 campaign ended with a 43-20 loss to Argentina
  • Scotland have won only five of their last 10 World Cup matches (L5) and haven’t beaten a Tier 1 opponent at the tournament since they defeated Italy 18-16 in 2007
  • They have opened each of their last four World Cup campaigns with a win, including a 45-10 win over this year’s hosts Japan in the 2015 edition
  • Ireland have won the opening match of their last World Cups, after having lost their opening game at two of the three editions prior
  • Scotland averaged the most metres gained (458) and the most defenders beaten (29) per game at the 2019 Six Nations, while their scrum success rate (96%) was also the highest of any side
  • Ireland averaged the fewest missed tackles per game (18) of any team at the 2019 Six Nations, while Scotland averaged the most (29 per game)

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