Ireland v Scotland: What's at stake in Six Nations finale?
Published 18/03/2016 | 16:16
Ireland host Scotland in Dublin in Saturday's final round of RBS 6 Nations fixtures, with the winner ready to scoop a third-place finish.
Here, Press Association Sport examines five key talking points from the Aviva Stadium showdown.
WORLD CUP 2019 SCRAMBLE
The pool draw for World Cup 2019 in Japan could happen as soon as December this year. If governing body World Rugby sanction that timescale then Ireland will have a fight on their hands to stay inside the top eight in the world rankings. Anyone below that line at the time of the World Cup pool draw will risk slipping into a "group of death", having missed out on the top two seeding pots. Ireland's victory over Italy, their sole win in the Six Nations so far, has eased the burden slightly but head coach Joe Schmidt's men face three summer Tests in South Africa, then New Zealand twice and Australia in the autumn. Victory this weekend would go a long way to easing the pressure.
Breakdown specialist coach Richie Gray joined Scotland from South Africa after the World Cup. The contact-area expert will have had a hand in Scotland pairing John Barclay and John Hardie in the back row for Saturday's Six Nations clash with Ireland in Dublin. The onus will be on Ireland's back row to hone in on the ball on the ground to nullify Scotland's threat. Australia pioneered the twin openside style to fine effect as David Pocock and Michael Hooper inspired their run to the World Cup final. Only New Zealand were able to nullify the double threat of 'Pooper' - now Ireland hope they will be able to stop Scotland's imitation brand.
FRIENDS BECOME FOES
Ireland boss Schmidt and Scotland counterpart Vern Cotter cut their coaching cloth as a duo with first Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, then Clermont in France. Schmidt's departure for Leinster sent the firm friends down different paths, and now the pair clash regularly in the Test arena. Both are renowned for constantly developing new ruses specific to individual contests - and when they meet they have more material than ever to pore over, knowing so well what makes the other tick. Each will try to catch the other out in a battle of wits and will that will hopefully generate high intrigue and entertainment.
DILLANE CHASES SOUTH AFRICA TICKET
Connacht's powerful 22-year-old lock Ultan Dillane has proved his vast Test potential with his two cameos in Ireland's Six Nations. The Paris-born, Tralee-raised second row boasts serious raw power, showing that in abundance off the bench against England and Italy. Dillane's Test chance has been accelerated by Ireland's wide array of injuries, with Iain Henderson, Dan Tuohy and Mike McCarthy all missing in the second row, not to mention former captain Paul O'Connell's retirement, but even if Tuohy and McCarthy come back into contention for Ireland's summer tour to South Africa Dillane could yet feature as the fourth second-rower.
SCOTLAND THE RESURGENT?
Scotland are chasing three successive wins in the championship for the first time since 1996. Victory in Dublin would hand the Scots tangible proof that their upward swing under Cotter is no flash in the pan. A whisker away from the World Cup semi-finals, Scotland could move well and truly past the disappointment of last-gasp defeat to Australia with a win on Saturday. Taskmaster boss Cotter has transformed almost every aspect of Scotland's approach, but any verdict can only be reached via the win-loss tally. Deliver for the third match in succession and the Scots will be well on the way to a brighter future.