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Roux set to step up for Ireland in 'must-win' clash with Scotland

The Connacht second row is in line to start after Devin Toner was ruled out.

QUINN ROUX WASN’T in Ireland’s Six Nations squad when Joe Schmidt announced his original 38-man selection exactly three weeks ago, but the Connacht lock now looks set to start in just the second round of the championship.

Called into Schmidt’s group after injuries to Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne, Roux has moved another notch up the pecking order with Devin Toner being ruled out of Saturday’s clash with Scotland in Edinburgh.

Ireland’s Quinn Roux 28-year-old Roux is in line to start for Ireland. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Toner picked up an ankle injury in last weekend’s defeat to England in Dublin, meaning Schmidt called Munster man Billy Holland into Ireland’s training camp at Carton House.

Connacht’s Ultan Dillane is also part of the Irish group and was in the initial 38-man squad, but Roux is now the favourite to slot in for Toner in the second row against Scotland.

“It was a tough call,” says Ireland assistant coach Greg Feek of their decision to pick Dillane ahead of Roux in the original Six Nations squad, while citing “versatility in the lock role – little things like that come into play.”

Roux came off the bench for Ireland against England last weekend and acquitted himself well once again in Test rugby, leaving him in line for his fifth start in green against the Scots, while he also looks likely to call the lineout in Toner’s absence.

“Quinn did really well at the weekend, he came on and put a couple of big hits in,” says Feek. “He’s been leading the lineout in Connacht this year, he’s really progressed there and matured as a player.

“He’s been in our environment since the South Africa tour [in 2016]. Good in the scrum, mauling, as a tight forward he ticks a lot of the boxes.

“Quinn has really stepped up in terms of calling the lineouts, leading the team and on the field, he’s slotting in when he has pretty well.

“Luckily for us, we have good depth there at the moment.”

Peter O'Mahony and Bundee Aki Bundee Aki shares a joke with Johnny Sexton. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland will need to call on their depth in the back row too, of course, with CJ Stander’s facial injury ruling him out and leaving the door open for Jack Conan or Sean O’Brien to come into the starting XV.

The question of whether Robbie Henshaw remains at 15, particularly with outside centre Garry Ringrose ruled out, remains intriguing too.

Schmidt’s men will need to be in better form up front this weekend, with Feek pointing out that the Scotland pack deserves respect. Indeed, Feek stresses that Ireland cannot be caught in the trap of dwelling on last weekend’s defeat to the English.

“I think if you look at Edinburgh and Glasgow, they’ve been competing really well,” says Feek. “Edinburgh’s forwards have gone really well and they are a unit. They seem to be hungry to want to win stuff.

“There seems to be a hunger there to go forward in what they do. They are well drilled and obviously well coached, and that’s where we just can’t keep looking back.

“It’s like, ‘Hang on a minute, we’ve got Scotland coming up’, and they’ve been going well and their teams have been going well. A lot of their combinations are a pretty easy fit as well, so we know what’s coming.”

Gregor Townsend’s side are set to be without tighthead prop WP Nel on Saturday due to injury, a real blow for them, but Feek says he rates back-up option Simon Berghan and also pointed to hard-scrummaging locks like Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis.

Ireland understand that Scotland will also bring an “inventive” streak to set-piece strikes, counter-attack and phase play, directed by the thoroughly mercurial Finn Russell at out-half and with fullback Stuart Hogg as threatening as ever.

Despite last weekend’s defeat on home soil, Ireland remain confident in their systems and personnel, whichever way Schmidt’s selection goes.

Robbie Henshaw Robbie Henshaw at Ireland training yesterday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having lost in round one, this weekend’s visit to Edinburgh is utterly pivotal in ensuring the 2019 Six Nations is not a disastrous campaign.

“It’s a must-win,” says Feek. “You don’t survive in this environment if you can’t handle the pressure.

“You’ve almost got to look at it, hold on to it and run with it, you know?

“These guys go through a lot of emotions, you don’t know what they’re thinking. You just try and help with that preparation as best you can.

“Sometimes with the adversity side of things, that needs to be thrown in there as well.”

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Murray Kinsella

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