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Dublin: 16 °C Thursday 30 October, 2014

Keyboard Warriors: Rugby bloggers of Ireland and Scotland chat it out

We got G-Chatting about Handling, Hogg and Hobbits. No mention of those nasty orks’s playing today.

TO HELP MAKE some sense of this weekend’s crucial Six Nations bout in Edinburgh, we called in some boiled bacon and some tatties.

Naturally, some hungry bloggers soon followed. Rory from ScottishRugbyBlog.co.uk and Demented Mole, from Digging like Demented Mole fame.

After being sent to the shops for a can of Irn Bru and a barrel of Country Spring red lemonade, we finally got down to talking a bit about rugby.

TheScore.ie: Right then, Rory. How does it feel to be favourites?

Rory: What? Who, us?

Really?

Demented: I think we’re -2! Doesn’t feel like it though.

TheScore.ie: Ok so, technically, Ireland are favourites, but you must be pleased with how Scotland have looked so far.

Rory: I think we’ve a good chance of winning, but can’t see us as favourites. They might be untried, but plenty of those Irish boys have beaten most of our Scottish boys this season.

Yeah, generally I like the way we are playing. Except when the defence goes all “Edinburgh”.

Demented: As an Irish fan, I was surprised what a big fillip England got winning in Lansdowne. Ireland have established a bit of a mental lead over teams that we didn’t have 10-15 years ago

Rory: Ahh, the good old days.

Demented: what has been the story with the Edinburgh d?

I thought Back’s appointment would mean it would be classic Leicester slow ball. Hasn’t happened, although Edinburgh kicking game is weak.

Rory: Well the defence coach quit so that might have something to do with it. Sometimes they look solid then suddenly they create silly gaps. Luckily Glasgow/Scotland is more Matt Taylor’s blueprint.

Imperfect 10s

Demented: Glasgow are a divil to score against. I like Weir’s kicking ability as well.

Rory: Which is how I’d like to see Scotland

Demented: has he progressed in your eyes Rory? Scotland put themselves under pressure by playing in their own half because the halves can’t kick that far.

Rory: Weir has, aye. But he’s sometimes seen over here as requiring more lessons in controlling a game offensively which is maybe why Jackson got the nod. Agree on the halves, luckily Hogg has a boot like *insert large artillery metaphor here*.

Demented: Hogg has the lot, class act.

He seemed to come from nowhere. That might be just an Irish perspective, don’t remember much 20s action from him

Rory: It’s only recently we’ve had decent U20s coverage but you’re right I don’t remember seeing much of him.

There was plenty talk on the grapevine, though.

Demented: I guess you don’t know how guys will go at senior level until they play, Zebo was a good u20 but no more.

He has adapted well to test level and has gotten steadily better.

Maitland is also very good footballer, reminds me a bit of Doug Howlett.

TheScore.ie: An incredible coup to get fully fledged crusader, I felt. Really makes Scotland look a balanced side.

Rory: Yeah, Maitland has been the find for me. Glasgow’s signings have been incredibly profitable (Strauss, Matawalu, Maitland) while Edinburgh’s largely hopeless. He looks like he has time on the ball to create things. Plus he knows about support lines which have been absent for a long time!

TheScore.ie: One guy we did see a lot of under 20 is Paddy Jackson. Mole, what do you make of his selection. It’s a big debut.

Demented: I was never totally sold on Jackson as a 20. I felt he stood very deep and never got his team going…

Rory: He does look a bit like a hobbit. Should get on well with Scott Johnson.

I have to confess to not seeing much of him.

Demented: … and that the team were better when Hanrahan played 10 in SA

Rory: Hanrahan, I do remember.

Credit: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Nasty Hobbits’s

TheScore.ie: Ha, just pictured Johnson smoking a pipe on the doorstep of Bag End, classic.

Demented: He does look like the worried little hobbit in the LOTR … and Tom Youngs looks like Sam

Johnson has probably coached Hobbits at this stage, worked on their skills.

Rory: Probably, he gets about.

Demented: He’s been around ol’ Scotty.

Rory: He seems to be talking more sense (and more cryptic nonsense too) than I remember

Demented: if Jackson goes poorly then his two biggest matches have both been washouts and he’ll be bracketed with Paddy Wallace in the shudder brigade of Irish rugby… so I hope he’s solid.

Rory: Without wishing ill on the young man, I’d like to see Rob Harley get up and at him early set the tone for the crowd.

Demented: That’s my concern.

Scotland’s back row are all big guys and it’ll be a faster pace with no Ruan Pienaar to work things out.

Rory: You don’t want to give our defence any time. A flat attack backed with some fast hands could, I fear, cut us open.

Not that ROG would have played that way either.

Demented: Ireland are a bit lightweight in the backs.

Rory: It’s the refusal to import Samoans.

TheScore.ie: We’re more of an Australia/ South African / NZ import kind of nation.

‘Big Truckers’

Rory: I suppose ‘glass houses’ and all that.

Demented: Earls and Gilroy and nippy but there’s no big trucker in there to get us over the gain line or field kicks.

Scotland’s size in the backs could cause us problems… Scotland’s size full stop.

Rory: Who do you think should be in there Mole? McFadden has always impressed me but he’s not massive either. Cave?

Demented: I think Marshall deserves his chance and I’d have picked Madigan at 10. Marshall is strong with good habits, although the step up in pace will be interesting.

Like Zebo, you don’t know how it will go until it happens.

Rory: Yeah a few of us were worried about Maitland and Pyrgos but they went fine.

Demented: There’s not that many imports though. How is Visser viewed, kilted clogger?

Rory:  I think we’ll forgive anyone who scores that amount of tries.

There are some that grumble, but there are no young Scottish finishers of his class being held back. Although Farndale, who also played in that U20s JWC, is a good prospect in a similar mould.

Demented: I think if a guy does residency and stays around then he’s kind of proven something

Rory: Personally I think it could be 5 years but them’s the rules.

TheScore.ie: Rory, aside from targeting Jackson early on. Where do you think Scotland can win this game?

Rory: Probably the same way as Ireland: solid defence and a competitive attitude at the breakdown. If Ireland kick us too much ball that back three will pick their spot and run round it.

Unfortunately I think Mr Barnes may come into it at some point too, probably at the scrum. I only hope it will be an open game, should be pretty close

TheScore.ie: What do you fear most about Ireland? You mentioned the scrum, how big a loss is Murray?

Rory: I always fear O’Driscoll magic. I fear that back row clicking and Heaslip recovering some Lions 09 form. In the scrum I have to admit I’m not up on the Irish props but I like what Cross offers in the loose, more than Murray. He’s been picked to scrummage though

TheScore.ie It’s the same situation with Court. He’s picked on the back of a good season’s scrummaging with Ulster.

Kidney called Kilycoyne ‘like for like’ with Healy this week, but is holding on the bench for impact when things loosen up a bit.

Rory: I’m still not sure we have the impact off our bench.

Demented: If Kilcoyne turns out as good as Healy then we’ll be very lucky, and we’ll have to convert one of them to tight head!

TheScore.ie: Ha, yeah, it raised my eyebrow.

Demented: Can’t imagine Kilcoyne making 20+ tackles though.

Rory: I was surprised that Murray and Hamilton were our top tacklers two weeks ago; they usually get the “lazy” tag. Or maybe not lazy, “less mobile”.

Demented: I think that would be fair enough.

Ireland’s back row doesn’t have the balance to allow Heaslip play his ‘09 style’. But I’m looking forward to seeing Iain Henderson off the bench. He has the right stuff.

Rory: are you guys missing an out and out 7 too?

Demented: Yes, have been for ages.

Rory: We’ve got two but they’re both injured. Barclay is back fit again though.

TheScore.ie:  Mole, what do you fear about Scotland, or how do you think Ireland can sneak a win?

Demented: I fear that their lineout will deprive us ball and I fear the back three.

I’m worried that Jackson will struggle at the level and that his confidence might waver.

Healy is a big loss because he’s so good. So is Jonny Sexton.

Rory: Who is the bigger loss, Sexton or Healy?

Demented: Sexton because of the gulf to the replacement, but Healy offers so much that he covers other areas of the team. As well as being an excellent scrummager, he makes buckets off tackles and can carry.

TheScore.ie: If Jackson does have a shaky 30-40 minutes from placed balls, would you call for ROG or ask Kearney to kick?

Demented: ROG. Kearney hasn’t played well in 2013.

Rory: Laidlaw may not kick far but he has accuracy going for him.

Demented: The Jackson selection puts a big onus on him. I hope he leaves me with egg on my face and I don’t want to appear negative towards him. I just think he’s been promoted a bit quickly and that if you said JJ Hanrahan should start you’d sound ridiculous.

Rory: I’m a big fan of Kearney but he’s probably 4th in the Lions pecking order now behind even Brown? I’d like to see him recover some form, maybe not against us though.

Demented: Hogg and Halfpenny have to be Lions full backs on form so far.

Although I thought Foden would go last year and Goode looks good so far

TheScore.ie: Okay lads lets wrap this up with a scientific view on what the scoreboard will say late on Sunday afternoon?

Demented: 22-18, Scotland

Rory: Yup, I’ve changed my tune from the piece I did only yesterday, I’ll go with 23-20 something like that.

TheScore.ie: Either of you going to Murrayfield, gents?

Demented: No, will watch at home.

Rory: Yes, I’m heading along in an unofficial capacity with the Mrs

Hoping for some good banter.

Demented: Enjoy the game, hope it’s not too Baltic!

Rory: It’s usually quite warm up the back in the cheap seats!  Last time I watched Sco v Ire from the gods was at Croker… cheers, have a great weekend.

TheScore.ie: Well, enjoy it lads, look forward to seeing your reactions afterwards.

Here, you can see that post-match reaction from Demented Mole and ScottishRugbyBlog. Or you can follow both on Twitter here and here.

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