We just can't lose to the Scots - Eddie

Payback time is now underway for Farrell's men

28 January 2020; Head coach Andy Farrell during an Ireland Rugby press conference at The Campus in Quinta da Lago, Portugal. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Des Berry

Eddie O'Sullivan considers it "unconscionable" for Ireland to lose to Scotland on Saturday.

"I think we've lost four Six Nations games to Scotland in 20 years, three of them in Murrayfield," said the former Ireland coach at RTé's launch of their coverage of the men's, women's and U20 championships.

Declan Kidney was the coach in the hot seat when Scotland rocked Ireland 23-20 at Croke Park, the Killer Bs, Jon Barclay, Kelly Brown and Johnnie Beattie, ensuring they won a good deal more handsomely than the final scoreline would suggest.

"Scotland have a 28 per cent success rate in the Six Nations. It is simply unconscionable that we will lose to them. I'm not trying to pile pressure on. That is just the way it is," he added.

This opinion is underpinned by Andy Farrell's intimate knowledge of the Irish players, what he has to work with an how he can get them back to being at their best.


"This team hasn't changed dramatically over the last two seasons," stated O'Sullivan.

"There is still the guts of the team that was outstanding in 2018, won the Grand Slam and beat the All Blacks.

"In 2019, we seemed to pivot back to a more attritional game. We flagged it during the Six Nations, we flagged it before the World Cup that we had lost our mojo as a team. We paid a price for that at the World Cup.

This begs the obvious question: why would Joe Schmidt move away from a plan that was working to one which didn't?

"It is the 50,000 dollar question. I don't know why Joe Schmidt went that road of playing an attritional game," he said.

"I don't know the answer to that. I just think maybe he miscalculated. We are still a physical team and we can get a certain way down the track using that physicality.

"What I would like is that we get back to 2018 and I think it won't be that difficult to make that adjustment because Farrell was there when it happened.

"He is not coming in new. He knows the players; they know him. The players obviously want him there because the key players would have been canvassed about his appointment and they obviously gave him a vote of confidence.

"Sometimes when you come in as a head coach, you can come in when things have gone really badly, and you can walk into a wreckage.

"That is not the case here. This is still a very good Ireland team. He knows his way around the squad. He is in a good position."

The fact Farrell has been working with Ireland since 2016 does limit the patience for producing results.

"There would be a little wriggle room for Farrell if he was a new coach coming in and he knew nobody. But, he is going into a system he knows better than anybody."

O'Sullivan is optimistic about Farrell's first campaign at the helm and what will be the definition of a successful campaign.

"I think this Six Nations will be defined by the middle game in Twickenham. It is hard to see us going there with anything other than two home wins.

"Now, Wales are always dangerous. But, they have a new coach and we just don't know about them.

"If we could win in Twickenham, we will go to France playing for a Grand Slam.

"If you trip up against Wales and you trip up against England, you are in risky mode trying to save the Six Nations.

"It could be a great Six Nations and you would hope it would be, to re-energise everybody in moving on from Japan."

Meanwhile, the pressure is on for Andy Farrell and Ireland after World Rugby confirmed that the pool draws for the 2023 World Cup will be made in November. Ranked first in the World before last year's tournament in Japan, the team's disappointing performance under Joe Schmidt saw them fall to fifth and if they remain outside the top four they will go into the draw as second seeds and risk facing a South Africa, New Zealand or England in their pool.

Four years ago, Schmidt's side were top seeds at the end of 2016 and earned what was seen as a favourable draw with Scotland, Japan, Samoa and Russia.

Based on the current ranking, the Springboks, All Blacks, England and Wales are in situ in the top four, with Ireland joined by Australia, France and Japan in the second tier.

The World Rugby rankings are updated after every match and will be closely monitored all year.

Ireland kick off the Farrell era with their Six Nations opener against Scotland this Saturday and their next two games against Wales and England will be key given there are more ranking points on offer for victories over higher ranked opposition.

After the Six Nations, Ireland face Australia twice in June. A rumoured third Test in Perth has not been confirmed.

And a tough November schedule that sees the world champion Springboks, Australia and Japan will finalise the rankings ahead of the draw in Paris in November.

Twelve teams have already qualified for the tournament in three years' time, with the global qualifying process beginning later this year.

World Cup seeding bands as of today

Band 1: South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales

Band 2: Ireland, Australia, France, Japan

Band 3: Scotland, Argentina, Fiji, Italy