David Corkery on Ireland v Scotland: Focus on performance and Grand Slam will take care of itself

Andy Farrell's side will have far too much class at Murrayfield on Sunday afternoon
David Corkery on Ireland v Scotland: Focus on performance and Grand Slam will take care of itself

Ireland's Garry Ringrose and Stuart Hogg of Scotland in last season's Six Nations meeting. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

HERE we are, standing on the precipice of Ireland winning a fourth Grand Slam. 

The first was way back in 1948 and the last in 2018 and the question now is whether Ireland are truly primed to have a realistic crack at winning a World Cup.

Planning ahead has never been one of Irish rugby’s strong points and because of this they've peaked and dipped over the decades with moments of splendour and days of despair.

To keep sponsors happy, put bums on seats and increase television viewership, they've gone with the attitude of winning every game and playing the strongest team philosophy. This meant there was very little thought given to the next game and certainly not the next World Cup. 

Some might argue this is the way it should be; others will say you must be prepared to suffer now in order to achieve later on.

In terms of this Grand Slam, it is now looking like the only side that can beat Ireland are themselves.

When you consider the biggest nemesis France have been seen off, they destroyed the very poor Welsh and avoided the embarrassment of falling foul to the spirited Italians, the next two games against Scotland and England should be nothing more than a couple of hard training sessions! Alright, it won’t be as easy as just turning up, but please don’t tell me that Scotland or England are better sides than Ireland. The English are well off their best.

I fully realise that sport has the ability to make a mockery of form however when you have players like Johnny Sexton, Tadgh Furlong, Jamison Gibson-Park, Gary Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw screaming for selection, it will take one hell of an opposing performance to bring a halt to this brilliant Irish side's Grand Slam ambitions.

Johnny Sexton in action at training. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Johnny Sexton in action at training. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Scotland are playing well. If you look objectively at their results though, all they have done is beat a very confused English side in round one, hammered home the fact that Wales are in crisis in game two and then lost to France. 

The biggest concern I would have in heading to Murrayfield is the rebirth of Finn Russel in a Scottish jersey.

Russell is a maverick kind of player who has the ability to find holes in defences where gaps would have trouble escaping however, he also has the proficiency to take some serious risks with the ball in hand.  I doubt it very much that Ireland's first-up tacklers will fall foul to his sleight of hand or fleet of foot.

Scotland also have the flying South African Duhan van der Merwe on the wing. He will take some stopping if he's allowed muster up any kind of momentum. 

I think we will see is Ireland's midfield deploy a very rushed defence. This will cut off the supply of ball to van der Merwe and reduce the amount of space he will have to build up any kind of speed.


Upfront, the Scots were dealt a big blow during the week after their second-row Grant Gilchrist was given a three-week ban that rules him out of the remainder of the Six Nations.

Gilchrist was red-carded during his country’s most recent fixture against France at the Stade de France in Paris and considering he started in all three of their games thus far, his absence will be a big blow.

Up to this point in Andy Farrell's ownership of the Irish senior rugby side, he seems to have created an environment that is built on trust with the foundations being set in player responsibility.

Conor Murray at the Aviva Stadium. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Conor Murray at the Aviva Stadium. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Long gone is the totalitarian style of coaching that Farrell's predecessor Joe Schmidt governed with and in its place lies a calm, controlled and intelligent style of coaching that allows the players to breathe and enjoy what they are trying to achieve.

I truly believe that this Irish side can achieve greatness however, I also believe that we are still a good 20% off the mark where we need to be in order to win a World Cup.

Ireland's first game of the 2023 World Cup will take place on the ninth of September against Romania and we still have no idea as to who Sexton's preferred understudy is, which is a very precarious place to be.

If Scotland are to beat this Irish side they will need to take some serious risks and that for me will be their downfall because Ireland will be prepared for all eventualities.

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