Easterby's warning to Ireland players
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: Ireland must prevent Scotland’s halfback partnership of Adam Hastings and Ali Price dictating play in Saturday’s Six Nations clash in Dublin like they did in Glasgow’s thrashing of Sale a fortnight ago, said the hosts’ defence coach Simon Easterby.
Hastings partners scrumhalf Price due to Scotland’s number one flyhalf Finn Russell being disciplined for breaching team protocols.
However, Easterby said the manner in which Hastings, son of Scotland great Gavin, and Price played in the 45-7 pasting of Sale in their Champions Cup match served as a warning to an Irish team desperate to move on from their disappointing World Cup.
“I am not surprised by their selection,” Easterby told reporters at the eve-of-match press conference on Friday.
“The team looks strong and the Scots will always offer you threats and make life difficult without the ball.
“There is plenty of quality – look at how their 9 [Price] and 10 [Hastings] played when Glasgow ripped Sale apart.
“It was largely due to how those two managed the game.”
Scotland captain Stuart Hogg said he had faith in Hastings and had been impressed by how he had performed in training.
“For me, Adam trained really well. He is confident in his ability to drive us round the field and so am I,” said Hogg.
Hogg admitted Scotland’s World Cup performance had left a lot to be desired – they went out in the pool stage, losing to the Irish and hosts Japan.
“I feel we are in a very good place after the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“We had a good look at ourselves. We have to move on, not dwell on the past, but look to the future.”
Easterby, formerly the forwards coach, said the first squad selected by head coach Andy Farrell since Joe Schmidt stood down after the World Cup reflected the form of the players and was not just looking towards building for the 2023 World Cup.
“Guess it is a balance but largely it is working in the here and now,” said the 44-year-old England-born former flank, who was capped 65 times by Ireland.
“Those guys are fully deserving of their selections. We have tried to pick on form and it has been difficult.
“Andy challenged them in December and said ‘Make it difficult not to pick you’ and it has been. Yes, there is always a thought of down the line but it is about the here and the now.
“They are in for a reason because they are in form.”
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‘Dust yourself off’
Easterby, who also won two caps for the British & Irish Lions, said he had been heartened by the response of the players who had under-performed at the World Cup – exiting in the quarterfinals to a 46-14 mauling by New Zealand.
“The provinces are in a good place,” he said. “They are well coached and well managed.
“It has taken the players a little bit of time to reflect.
“As a player you need that little bit of space but there is no better place to get back than the pitch and playing.
“Just dust yourself off and right some of those wrongs, which I think across the board they have done.”
The Irish will start as strong favourites, with just one home defeat in the Six Nations in the past five years, while the Scots’ last victory in Dublin came 10 years ago.
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