Scotland to target Ulster debutants – Laidlaw
Scottish scrum-half Greig Laidlaw has claimed that his side's half-backs will target Ireland's Ulster debutants in Sunday's crucial Six Nations clash at Murrayfield and the Irish kicking game which came undone in defeat against England two weeks ago.
Paddy Jackson, at out-half, and inside-centre Luke Marshall make their full Test debuts in the absence of injury victims Jonathan Sexton and Gordon D'Arcy and Scotland clearly see profit in attacking the fledgling pair.
"It won't make much difference to me and Ruaridh Jackson as half-backs but it's a crucial linchpin in Ireland's attack so we'll be looking to unsettle them early in the game, definitely," said Laidlaw (pictured).
"We will get in about them and try and put them on the back foot and hopefully they'll get a bit cagey and that will allow us to get into the game even more.
"There are a couple of specific things we've worked on for Ireland – they're big on their kicking game and aerial kicks so that's a key area, to win that battle to set us on our way."
Laidlaw does admit, however, to some wariness as Ireland seek to redress their championship challenge after faltering so dismally at home to England 12 days ago.
"I'd agree with that," he said. "Ireland are a good team with great players, albeit they've had to make a few changes. They have three really strong provinces and a good one in Connacht and the players are good so we're wary, especially as they come off the back of a defeat to England at home."
It is a point elaborated upon by hooker Ross Ford, who is also relishing the chance to test himself in a potential joust for Lions supremacy with Ireland hooker Rory Best, currently the favourite in many pundits' books to start the first Test in Australia during the summer.
"Obviously the players they've lost are key for them, but they've got a squad, and they have done for a while, that they've blooded," said Ford.
"They've got that experience of international rugby and I'm sure they'll have been training with the boys running up to this, in the autumn Tests, so they'll know what's expected of them and what they need to do.
"So I don't think it will take away too much from what they're about and what they're trying to do. I think they'll still be very strong and will know what they're trying to achieve.
"As for the Lions, you pretty much are motivated anyway with all the hookers you go up against," added Ford. "You just say you've got to beat them to the ball and try and be one up on them the whole time.
"If I do that, hopefully it will play its part in allowing us to play the way we want to and put us on top.
"If everybody is doing their job and getting one up on their opposite number, it's going to go a long way in helping the team get the win."