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Chalmers doubts 'tired' Irish team


Craig Chalmers

Craig Chalmers

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Craig Chalmers

In an era of fortune-telling animals, you could call him a psychic chick.

For when Craig Chalmers - or 'Chick' to his friends - tells us Scotland will beat Ireland in their World Cup opener, it behoves us to pay attention.

He may think Ireland should win but, deep down, he believes Scotland can win.

Should we care? Perhaps so; the last time we spoke was in February, 2017.

His conviction was palpable then, too. "Scotland will win 21-18," he crowed. Well, at least he got the scoreline wrong…

That was the last time Ireland succumbed to a side which, in nine attempts in the last century when Chick was in his pomp, never tasted defeat.

In this century, however, the roles have been utterly reversed; Scotland have won only four competitive fixtures against the Irish since 2000.

This is their first meeting at a World Cup in 28 years; then, Scotland, with Chalmers departing bruised but not bowed, emerged as victors.

In 1991, had he, not a concussed Gavin Hastings, attempted a shot at goal in the semi-final when tied 6-6 with England...

"Who knows," he mutters. "I still wake up thinking about that one. If only..."

This generation of Scots wallow in ifs, too.

"If Ireland are not in tip-top position and the injuries disrupt their build-up, Scotland are capable of taking advantage," says the gifted out-half who featured in two World Cups.

The high winds may still mitigate the all-singing and dancing Scots; nae matter, Chalmers feels his side can turn the tables on an Irish side whose recent form belies their status as the world's number-one team.

"They were very good in 2018," he concedes. "Players were fresh and sharp but they have struggled in the past year.

"They have looked tired, players have had injuries. Ireland don't have a good World Cup record.

"For me, the biggest shock was Devin Toner being excluded. That is the area where Scotland will really attack and that is where we can cause damage by slowing down that ball.

"If we can then get into Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton's face, that takes a massive part of the game away from them.

"Scotland will need to get a good platform from the forwards to launch Finn Russell and his back-room.

"It will be an advantage to Ireland if it's wet and windy. Scotland would prefer it dry and humid so they can chuck it about and test Ireland in the wider channels."

Irish Independent