Six Nations 2023: Ex-Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan backs Irish ‘experience and quality’ to edge Scotland

Scotland wing Kyle Steyn is tackled by Ireland’s Mack Hansen at the Aviva Stadium in March 2022

Former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan believes the current side’s “experience and quality” may prove enough to see off Scotland as they continue their pursuit of a Six Nations Grand Slam.

Andy Farrell’s team visit Murrayfield on 12 March, having won their opening three games of the championship.

Scotland lost 32-21 to France in Paris, after defeating England and Wales.

“Scotland are very dangerous and very confident. It will probably come down to one score,” said O’Sullivan.

“I thought Scotland’s performance against France was excellent and their consistency at the moment is really good.

“They’ve had some really good performances in recent years but they’ve never quite backed that up.

“This time they’ve had three big performances and I thought they were really unlucky not to get a result in Paris.”

Gregor Townsend’s side conceded three tries in the first 20 minutes as they went down to the French on Sunday.

“Two of those tries were from turnovers and another from an intercept so those were self-inflicted wounds. Other than that I think they’d have won,” O’Sullivan told Radio Ulster’s Sportsound Extra Time.

“They got their gameplan right, dominated possession and territory for long spells but there were a couple of chances they didn’t take.”

Prop Finlay Bealham has been ruled out of the remainder of the campaign through injury but fit-again Tadhg Furlong has been named in the Ireland training squad this week, along with scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and centre Robbie Henshaw, who have all yet to feature in this year’s championship.

“The big question is will they all be fit for selection? Andy [Farrell, Ireland head coach] will know from the training ground where the lads are at, but it’s still a risk involved in selecting for key positions.

“They have played very little rugby, been out for a substantial period of time, and will be going into the toughest Test match they’re going to face in the Six Nations.”

Peter O'Mahony and Jack Crowley celebrate victory over Italy
Peter O’Mahony and Jack Crowley celebrate Ireland’s win over Italy on Saturday

O’Sullivan reflected that Ireland showed “a lot of maturity and composure to close the game out” in battling past Italy 30-24 in Rome.

“Ireland got off to a flyer but then made a couple of mistakes and Italy came roaring back.

“The Italians came to the party determined to play but some of the tries Ireland got very easily because the Italian defence was quite poor at times.

“Italy have upped their game in attack but have to address their defensive frailties. Ireland were very clinical in how they exploited Italy when they needed to.”

Both sides will be hoping to secure a Triple Crown at Murrayfield and O’Sullivan thinks there is at least as much pressure on Scotland as there is on Ireland.

“Scotland haven’t won the Triple Crown since 1990 and their success against Ireland has been pretty non-existent for the past 20 years.

“If Scotland lose to Ireland, even if they beat Italy, it’ll be put down as a mediocre Six Nations for the Scots.

“If this is going to be Scotland’s breakthrough year they’ve got to win the Triple Crown and beat Italy to have a chance of the championship. Otherwise it will be a lot of talk with not much result at the end.”

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