Ireland fan George Beattie at Edinburgh Castle. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

How many Ireland players would get into the Scotland team?

Murray Kinsella checks in from Edinburgh ahead of tomorrow’s Six Nations clash.

ANY LINGERING FATIGUE from a 6.20am red-eye flight from Dublin was washed away with a jaunt along the Royal Mile up to Edinburgh Castle this afternoon. The sun out, a crisp spring day. What a city.

Green hats and scarves and jerseys have popped up all over the place in the Scottish capital, as well as the navy gear of the home fans. Six Nations fever is well and truly here. How could it not be with Gregor Townsend’s side one win away from the country’s first Triple Crown since 1990?

The travelling supporters have something bigger in mind. A Grand Slam is tantalisingly close. Victory tomorrow would give Ireland the chance to claim it on home soil for the first time ever. How special that would be, particularly given that it’s England visiting on St Patrick’s weekend.

But first, the job at hand. The plane over was packed with Irish fans as expected.

Among those we bumped into was a crew from CYM Rugby in Terenure who were off to play the 74th Friendship Cup against Haddington RFC, about 30 minutes outside Edinburgh. The game has been going since 1949, making it the longest-running rivalry between an Irish club and a Scottish club. The CYM lads were in good form. That’s what rugby is all about.

We also bumped into a couple who had suffered the same issue with the same wedding photographer in that he had taken the cash and disappeared. Thankfully, we were united in having achieved some vengeance. Small world.

Strolling around Edinburgh this morning, we appreciated its beauty all over again. Similarly to the recent trip to Rome, it had been too long. 2019 was the most recent visit so it was a joy to rediscover some of the landmarks and architecture.

From Calton Hill to the Scott Monument to the Old Town to the Castle that gazes out over the rest of the city, there are sights aplenty. Ireland’s digs for the weekend are in the five-star Balmoral hotel with its majestic clock tower. A palatial structure that’s been there since 1902.

amanda-harvey-and-marian-ryan-with-paul-harvey-karl-howley-and-declan-counihan Amanda Harvey and Marian Ryan with Paul Harvey, Karl Howley and Declan Counihan from MU Barnhall Rugby Club. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The sounds of the city stood out too. One busker played Flower of Scotland on the bagpipes. A great tune. Another man roared, “Gary Lineker was right, sign this petition.”

The Match of the Day host is all over the front of the newspapers here but we were more interested in the stuff at the back and in the sports pullouts. There’s some interesting reading to be had.

The Scotsman’s coverage led with focus on Stuart Hogg hitting the 100-cap mark but our eyes were drawn to a column by Allan Massie entitled ‘Man for man there’s little between world No 1 side Ireland and Townsend’s Scots.’

Massie poses the following question: “Which of the present Ireland team would, if qualified, be selected by Townsend?”

He reckons “only three or four” and suggests that one might pick Huw Jones over Garry Ringrose or Duhan van der Merwe ahead of James Lowe.

“The Scotland halves tomorrow will be Finn Russell and Ben White; I’d rather them than Ireland’s veterans Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray,” writes Massie. Each to their own.

Over in The Times, former Scotland skipper John Barclay says that if he were tasked with giving the team talk ahead of tomorrow, he’d lean on a speech he made before a Scotland game against Wales in 2017.

“You play these guys week-in week-out in the league and beat them,” said Barclay back then. “Nothing they were doing here is better than we do.” The Times columnist feels that’s relevant this weekend.

“Given the recent record against Ireland, there will be that same hurt and frustration among the Scotland players around this fixture,” writes Barclay. “I have every faith they can channel it into the same kind of emphatic win we delivered six years ago against Wales.”

jonathan-sexton Johnny Sexton at Murrayfield today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

There’s coverage of the Scotland U20s’ humbling at the hands of Ireland last night, with David Barnes in The Scotsman calling it a “brutal demonstration of just how far off Scottish Rugby is when it comes to player development pathway.”

How interesting, then, that just two pages later, there’s a big interview with former Scotland international Peter Walton, who is now in charge of the SQ [Scotland-qualified] department of Scottish Rugby. He scouts games across the UK for possible Scotland players and is planning a trip to South Africa next year. 

And so, what a coincidence it was that we bumped into Tommy Seymour out at Murrayfield barely 30 minutes after reading that interview. An ex-Ireland U19 and Ulster player, he qualified for the Scots through his grandmother and ended up winning 55 caps for them. He’s now working in the commercial branch of Scottish Rugby.

Casting an eye over Ireland’s captain’s run on the pitch underlined again how they have been blessed with good health in their squad at the right time.

There are 29 Irish players over in Edinburgh this weekend just to cover any late, late withdrawals tomorrow but everyone is good to go right now.

And so, back into the city to take in a little more of the atmosphere ahead of the big day tomorrow. There’s nothing quite like the Six Nations.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel