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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019


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It’s early. Maybe too early to be up and coherent of a Sunday morning. But we need every ounce of that focus, because today is the day we’ve been waiting for.

It’s The Big One (in Pool A), the game Irish rugby has been waiting for, planning for, worrying about over the past 28 months since the tournament draw was made.

It’s Scotland, our dear Celtic Cousins who we know so well, yet have built up so much rugby enmity in recent years over everything from buses to bursts over rucks at a scrum-half’s standing leg.

Kick-off in Yokohama is at 8.45 (RTE, eir Sport). Get some tea in you before then to settle the nerves and we’ll talk you through every minute of Ireland’s World Cup opener.

Here are the horses for this particular course.

Ireland have had to go in without Rob Kearney, Joey Carbery, Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw. But the pack is primed and ready.


15. Jordan Larmour
14. Andrew Conway
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander


16. Niall Scannell
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Andrew Porter
19. Tadhg Beirne
20. Jack Conan
21. Luke McGrath
22. Jack Carty
23. Chris Farrell


15. Stuart Hogg
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Duncan Taylor
12. Sam Johnson
11. Sean Maitland
10. Finn Russell
9. Greig Laidlaw

1. Allan Dell
2. Stuart McInally (captain)
3. Willem Nel
4. Grant Gilchrist
5. Jonny Gray
6. John Barclay
7. Hamish Watson
8. Ryan Wilson


16. Fraser Brown
17. Gordon Reid
18. Simon Berghan
19. Scott Cummings
20. Blade Thomson
21. Ali Price
22. Chris Harris
23. Darcy Graham 

Referee: Wayne Barnes [England].

There’s the anthem booming out of Andrew Porter, CJ Stander, Bundee Aki and Jacob Stockdale.

The nerves are jangling and these players will be pleased to finally get the ball kicked into open play.

Tears have been shed, the tracksuits are off and the metaphorical gloves are about to be flung to the ground.

Hugh Cahill sounds like he’s either commentating from under the sea or from 1971. 

Lets hope the show improves from here on in.

RTE have responded to the panic button over the audio quality by flicking over to ITV’s commentary team just in time for kick-off.


We thought it would be tight, but it’s begun at a frenetic pace.

Scotland charge down Sexton and after the force a turnover they look to attack through a Hogg chip and chase.

Larmour recovers the bouncing ball, but there is a sense of chaos to this.


Ireland bring some order to things with a good maul and Rory Best breaks out with a carr before Conor Murray keeps the tempo ratcheted high with a chip-chase of his own.

He’s sent flying as he runs after the kick, but Barnes ways play on and it seems a fair call.

Ireland come back on the next wave of attack with a big carry from Iain Henderson bringing Ireland within inches of the try=line.


Who else but the big man. Ireland tightened up and sent the tight five crashing at the try-line after Henderson’s break and it’s the big lock who brings the ball the crucial final inch.

Sexton lands the straightforward conversion.

Ireland 7 Scotland 0


Peter O’Mahony down getting a bit of treatment, but he’s grand.

Hogg launches a bomb to test Jordan Larmou, but he’s grand.

There’s nothing to worry about, Ireland fans. We’re number one in the world and well on track in this World Cup opener.


Larmour then shows his prowess on the ground with a big break down the left.

RTE’s commentary is seemingly back just in time to witness it, but Hugh Cahill’s voice is still a good 7-8 seconds behind the play and it makes for distracting viewing.

Larmour hit the deck in contact and when Scotland won the ball back and boomed back into Ireland’s half Andrew Conway had to scramble back with the fullback upfield.


That’s better Cahill, Lenihan and the watching public are back in sync and Ireland force  a penalty after an effective maul.

Sexton kicks the penalty for the corner rather than taking easy points.


Ireland not so much turning the screw as twisting the knife in Scotland. The decision to pass up an easy penalty is wholly justified as the maul cruises over the line and the skipper twists to get the tip of the ball down.

Sexton gets a slightly heavy contact on his kick and it veers right of the posts.

Ireland 12 Scotland 0


Now we’ll see what Scotland can offer in response.

Ireland hammer up in defence and they keep the carrier out of Bundee Aki’s range, which eventually brings a two on one, with Maitland setting Seymour on the attack.

Conan, who is on as a blood sub for JVDF, gives away a penalty and Laidlaw can get the Scots on the board here.


PENALTY! Ireland 12 Scotland 3 (Laidlaw ’21)


A Stockdale error and Scotland look to attack off a line-out, but Seymour spills in midfield. Conway hacks at it, the second kick sends the ball spinning into the Scottish 22.

Hogg wins the race, but the ball comes back off the post pads the fullback winds up being hounded and dragged over his own line.


The central 5-metre scrum is a perfect attacking platform, but Ireland don’t overthink it: CJ Stander charges at the try-line and Conor Murray’s silver service sets Tadhg Furlong up to bully his way over.

Sexton is receiving treatment, so Murray adds the conversion.

Ireland 19 Scotland 3


Now, a bit of housekeeping to catch up on, because this game has beena mile a minute.

JVDF is back from the blood bin, but Jack Conan is still on because Peter O’Mahony requires a HIA.

Bundee Aki is also in for a check on a head knock, so Chris Farrell is in the centre with Garry Ringrose now.


CJ Stander now finds an acre of space to charge into the Scottish 22, but the number 8 doesn’t look to his left, where he could have surely delivered a try-assist to Conor Murray. Instead, he veers right for contact and Ireland are set up to attack.

They rumble through the phases, but the pressure is eased for Scotland as Stander is pinged for a penalty.


Stuart Hogg sends a terrific drive up the touchline and Scotland look to attack from the line-out.

They look wide with Russell, but Jacob Stockdale is up in a flash to close in on a hit while Hogg is in possession and the scoring chance is lost as the ball bobbles beyond Seymour.

It appears as though Chris Farrell is on for the remainder of the match now as Bundee Aki has not returned from his HIA.


And there goes Stockdale in attack, with a trademark chip and regather taking him deep into Scottish territory.

He’s eventually brought to ground though and his attempt to recycle is thwarted by a brilliant counter ruck.

He probably needed to offload to keep that move alive, there were men in support.

Oh, that’s a nasty one. Hamish Watson can be heard letting out a scream after Cian Healy drags him one way and Tadhg Furlong comes crashing in to blast him in another direction.

Play is stopped while the Edinburgh openside is tended to. Blade Thompson will come in to replace him. 


The half ended with Conor Murray taking on a penalty shot.

Perhaps part of the reason Ireland were so bullish in going to the corner was that Jonny Sexton wasn’t quite comfortable kicking off the tee. 

He landed a straightforward conversion after Ryan’s try, but it was a heavy contact after Best’s. Murray has been handed the kicking tee since.

A word too on Scotland’s replacement after that Watson injury. Gregor Townsend has not sent on the back row on his bench Blade Thompson. Instead, back-up hooker Fraser Brown has packed down on the flank.

Here comes the second half. Ireland have a healthy lead and the weather appears set to help them keep it with a thick coating of rain coming down.

Whatever the weather, both sides are still intent on keeping the tempo high in this game. Hogg breaks and Ireland have to scramble before Van der Flier forces the turnover.

Back in possession, Schmidt’s side attack the short side quick and Conway chips ahead to turn Hogg around.

The fullback feels a big shove from the Munster man as Conway tries to plant his hand on the ball bouncing behind the try-line.

A solid attacking set from Scotland now, approaching 10 phases as they approach the try-line, but John Barclay spills the ball out of his chest.

The rain is bucketing down and the half-time scoreline hasn’t been troubled.


Time to change the props then, Killer and Andrew Porter bring the bench impact now, but they’ll have to begin five metres from their own line.


There’s no sign of Scotland’s fortunes turning here, they get a touch on an Ireland clearance kick and end up giving the line-out to Ireland. 

The ball goes up after the set-piece, bounces back off Stockdale and Killer knocks on with this second touch of the ball.

We could be in for a very scrappy final half-hour.


There’s the bonus point!

Conor Murray’s up and under is contested by Conway, Jordan Larmour is first to it and scampers forward before the ball comes back to Murray and Conway raids the right to score.

A huge five-point success for Ireland, but Murray misses the conversion and Sexton heads off the field with Jack Carty among a slew of replacements coming on. 


Chris Farrell showing a little of the French flair he picked up in the Alps. He gets on to Carty’s kick to space and flicks a gorgeous back-handed off-load for Luke McGrath to take on.

Unfortunately, a knock on soon comes, but Ireland can afford to enjoy themselves now as thoughts turn towards the host nation.


Oh lord. Forget the knock-on, Ireland responded by showing all their bench power in the scrum, sending the Scottish set-piece back-pedalling.


Carty really brings something refreshingly different to Ireland when he’s on the field. Another deft, clever chip over the top to keep an air of hesitancy about the Scottish defence as they turn and join the chase.

Chris Farrell is enjoying the space to work too, another big break from the Munster man has Ireland on the front foot in Scotland’s 22.

They can really rub a little salt in now.


Scotland pinged for offside and Carty will get on the scoresheet.

PENALTY! Ireland 27 Scotland 3 (Carty ’67)


Rory Best is still on the field for some reason. The game is won and poor Niall Scannell is still waiting to get on the field.


Yellow Card: Tadhg Beirne blots the copybook for headmaster Schmidt.


15 men, 14 men, whatever. Ireland continue to bully Scotland, forcing a turnover with Conan and CJ working in tandem.


Here comes Niall Scannell, but not in place of Rory Best.

The grand old man of the front row will play the full 80 and it’s Josh van der Flier who is called ashore.

The Ulsterman will be doing very well to be up to speed again when Ireland take on Japan.

Now Chris Farrell is packing down in the back row as CJ Stander moves to lock for the latest Irish scrum.

Joe wanted strength in depth, but I@m not sure this is quite what he had in mind.


And there’s the full-time gong. Ireland take the bonus point win and control of Pool A.

We’re on a collision course with Rassie Erasmus’ South Africa, but next up it’s Japan.

FULL-TIME: Ireland 27 Scotland 3

About the author:

Sean Farrell


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