Ireland wary of 'very physical' Scotland
NEWS: Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell believes Gregor Townsend has built the strongest Scotland team he will have faced as a player or coach as the teams prepare for their Six Nations clash on Sunday.
O’Connell hailed head coach Townsend for adding an under-appreciated physical element to his side’s exciting attacking play.
“You think sometimes if a coach is into attack his teams won’t have a physical edge,” he said.
“But every single Glasgow team [where Townsend previously coached] I played back in the day were excellent attacking sides but they were physical as well. And it’s the same with this Scotland side now.
“So much of the good attack in the Nations Cup and the start of the Six Nations has come from Scotland. And then they are very, very physical as well.”
💬 “The players have been really impressive, the way they take ownership and they run the operation.” ✊🟢
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 9, 2021
O’Connell hailed the “fantastic” performance Scotland produced in their victory against England, which was followed by a narrow loss to Wales.
Their match against France was postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak in the French camp.
“I think it’s the best Scottish team I’ve ever gone up against, as a coach or a player,” said O’Connell.
“They’re very well-coached, very physical and they’ve got some real X-factor players as well, Finn Russell to name one and Stuart Hogg just to name another.”
Josh van der Flier must pass head injury return-to-play protocols ahead of the match at Murrayfield on Sunday, but otherwise Ireland have a fully fit squad.
Andy Farrell’s Ireland will be desperate to prove themselves after opening their tournament with defeats against Wales and France.
A 48-10 win over Italy in Rome offered some respite, but O’Connell knows the final two fixtures, against Scotland and England, pose an entirely different challenge.
“These next two weeks against a resurgent, confident Scottish side, and an English side we’ve struggled against in recent months and years, it’s a real tough challenge now, the last two weeks,” he said.
“I think we’ve taken confidence from some of the things we’ve done in the last three games. We’ve probably been unlucky in some regards and we haven’t helped ourselves in other regards.”