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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 22 August, 2019
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CJ Stander's ex-roomie Strauss plotting 'strategy' to counter Murray

Familiarity has fuelled the fire with our celtic brethren after Munster’s feisty meetings with Glasgow.

Image: Ian Rutherford

THE CONNECTIONS RUN deep between Ireland and Scotland and, as you may have noticed, feelings have been running at piping hot temperatures recently too.

The 133rd renewal of the rivalry will get the Six Nations under way after a long build-up which has centred around fall-outs and disputes bred by familiarity, and the even less-quantifiable confidence levels that are expected from both sides.

Back row Josh Strauss is among the men at the very heart of that venn diagram illustrating the connections, controversy and confidence that have dominated the long pre-match build-up to this fixture.

The 30-year-old spent a week rooming with Ireland’s CJ Stander in a past life when both were aspiring Springboks. That was a long time ago though, Stander was a Blue Bull, Strauss a Lion.

CJ Stander with Josh Strauss Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I mean, we’re friends like any rugby player is friends with another rugby player. We don’t keep in touch, but we’ve got a good connection,” says Strauss.

“(Because of his Springbok snub) He’s playing angry as they say in the NFL. He’s a great player, he was a great player in South Africa and he’s got a lot of class and skill about him. He’s done really well, just look at the last few years and how well he’s done. He’s been an in-form player. Good on him.”

Of course, the real juicy element of the build-up has been caused by Strauss’ interactions with another key Munster man. The Glasgow Warrior was one of the chief culprits Conor Murray alluded to when criticising Gregor Townsend’s men for targeting his standing leg when box kicking during feisty Champions Cup pool clash in Scotstoun last month.

Glasgow and Scotland’s party line has been consistent on this issue and Strauss was not about to change tack on the eve of battle.

“I mean, it’s just kick pressure really. It’s a strategy and we executed it.

We don’t look at anyone specifically, we just look at everyone when it comes to a kick strategy and we’ll just do the same tomorrow. If we can get charge-downs you can win the game, it all comes down to hard work.”

Since the Scrap in Scotstoun, both Stander and captain Peter O’Mahony have stated that they should have protected Murray more by putting a guard up on his blindside. Just the sort of hole Strauss was on the look-out for to implement the aggressive gameplan.

“If there’s no guard you’re going to look for that, you’re going to try and put pressure on the ruck as well to try and get those guards away so you can put pressure on.

The South African added: “We didn’t target anyone we just looked for kick pressure and didn’t look for anyone in particular. It’s just by chance he’s the number nine and that’s why it happened.”

Conor Murray tackled by Josh Strauss Josh Strauss gets a hit on Conor Murray at Scotstoun last month. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Despite Munster’s victory that night, Glasgow managed to go on and qualify for the Champions Cup knockout stage and sustain the momentum building in Scotland after a commendable November in which they defeated Argentina and Georgia and fell agonisingly late to Australia. Those results, and more importantly the style of them, has combined to make Scottish rugby fans giddy with excitement and eager to hoist comparisons with the 1999 title-winners on to Vern Cotter’s current crop.

“Why is there confidence? You tell me why,” came the big bump of feet on ground after Nathan Hines was invited to blow up balloons for the celebration.

The former Leinster lock would later take the time to commend Devin Toner’s ability to lead Ireland’s pack even if “he’s got a bit less hair now” than when they shared a changing room. However, the forwards coach’s core role yesterday was drawing a line under November and re-setting Scotland’s hunger to impress.

Nathan Hines Forwards coach Nathan Hines at the captain's run yesterday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Look, the things that make a difference at the moment are that people are playing well and are in Europe, so that’s the only thing to bring forward into this group.

“It’s all opinion. The fact is, we haven’t done anything and the games haven’t started. Until we can prove that we can win on Saturday and win games back to back, it’s all just opinion and doesn’t mean anything.”

It’s been a long build-up for all of us, Nathan. But the preamble will go off with a blast of bagpipes and a bang of fireworks this afternoon. Then, at last, the rugby can start.

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Sean Farrell

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