Jack Cosgrove column: “Scotland will target the Ireland scrum”

Former Scotland under-20 player Jack Cosgrove looks ahead to the Scotland v Ireland clash on Sunday

I am really looking forward to watching Scotland play for the first time in a few weeks in the Six Nations – and I would imagine the players will be itching to get going against Ireland.

Some of them have had game time for their clubs of late, but some others have not played since the 25-24 loss against Wales in mid-February and that result will have stung.

The players could not do anything about the France game being postponed and all of their focus in the last couple of weeks will have been about getting back to the heights they showed against England at Twickenham when Ireland come to town.

And although they don’t have the best recent record against Ireland and are missing the suspended Zander Fagerson, Scotland will target the Ireland scrum in this game – and I think they have a good chance of winning if they get the upper hand in that area.

Zander will be a miss because he has been playing well, but his replacement at tighthead prop, WP Nel, is a great scrummager and a very experienced player. I think he will be looking at the Irish forward pack named and thinking that Scotland can exploit some weaknesses there at set piece time.

I think there is a big emphasis on Nel and Rory Sutherland playing as long as they can in this match though because if and when they are replaced by Simon Berghan and Jamie Bhatti then the Scotland scrum may well be that bit weaker.

I am surprised that Cian Healy and Rob Herring have come back in to start for them in the front-row because I thought Dave Kilcoyne and Ronan Kelleher were excellent at loosehead prop and hooker respectively against Italy.

The two of them offered something different with their ball carrying and their aggression in the collision area and I think not having them on from the start works in Scotland’s favour.

Further back in the pack, if Hamish Watson has another good game in the back-row then he can just about seal his British & Irish Lions squad place, but young Will Connors also looks a good player at seven for Ireland and there will be a good dual between the two of them in this match.

Behind the scrum, it is good to see Sam Johnson back at 12 because he is physical and direct and I like him as a player.

He is strong defensively too and, along with Chris Harris, that is a strong looking midfield partnership for Scotland although they will need to be good against Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose.

With Keith Earls back on the Ireland wing you would imagine they are going to try and make it an aerial battle, but Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland in particular are solid under the high ball.

I think Scotland will be feeling quietly confident going into this game, they have a solid base to build on and they seem to be getting stronger as a unit.

Jack was talking to Gary Heatly

Thanks to David Gibson/FOTOSPORT for the main image

Jack Cosgrove, 26, is a loosehead prop who played professional rugby for Worcester Warriors, Edinburgh Rugby, Bristol Bears and the Dragons. He earned eight Scotland under-20 caps in 2014, playing in the age-grade Six Nations and the World Championship in New Zealand. He was forced to retire aged 25 in 2019 due to injury.

Scotland v Ireland takes place at BT Murrayfield on Sunday in the Six Nations and is live on BBC Sport (3pm kick-off)