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Six Nations: Ireland v Scotland preview
The forwards especially were a hard pick but we're happy. We believe we've got a good combination to go in against formidable opposition.
Quotes of the week
- Ireland leave out Zebo
- About Schmidt
- BOD targets final flourish
- Scots change four for opener
- Swinson grows in confidence
- Weir wants Scotland to attack
- O'Connell: BOD our talisman
- Skipper Heaslip demands more
- Marshall starts for Ireland
Ireland will be hoping to enjoy some home comforts on Sunday when they kick-off their Six Nations campaign against Scotland - a side that beat them in last year's competition.
Despite some improved performances in the autumn internationals, including coming incredibly close to ending New Zealand's perfect record in 2013, the Irish have now won just one of their last five matches at the Aviva Stadium.
They have also lost four straight in the Six Nations, but have been beaten just once since 2004 on the opening weekend of the tournament - that reverse coming against Wales two years ago.
Head coach Joe Schmidt will want to see his team hit the ground running this year, particularly as the Scots have triumphed just once in Dublin since 1998.
The match this weekend will provide a landmark moment for Brian O'Driscoll; the centre will win his 129th international cap, taking him past former team-mate Ronan O'Gara's Irish record of 128.
The former captain will be joined in midfield by Luke Marshall, the in-form Ulster player getting the chance to start due to Gordon D'Arcy suffering with a stomach bug.
"Luke Marshall has played really well in the Heineken Cup in big games," said Schmidt, who confirmed he would have selected D'Arcy if available. "He played in the Six Nations last year and played very well against Scotland.
"I thought he played well against Australia in the autumn too. He made a defensive error at one stage, but he's learning all the time. He's working hard at everything we're trying to do.
"He's between Johnny Sexton and Brian O'Driscoll, so experience-wise, he's a bit inexperienced but either side of him he has two players who can help him navigate his way through the game."
Reddan ruled out
Elsewhere in the home team, Luke Fitzgerald's absence means Andrew Trimble starts on the wing, while Isaac Boss has been called up to the bench after fellow scrum-half Eoin Reddan was ruled out with a calf problem.
Scotland, meanwhile, will field four Six Nations debutants; lock Tim Swinson, centres Alex Dunbar and Duncan Taylor and flanker Ryan Wilson will all get their first taste of the event.
Stuart Hogg returns at full-back having missed the November Tests through injury, while head coach Scott Johnson has opted to select Duncan Weir, rather than Ruaridh Jackson, in the No 10 jersey.
Swinson gets the nod over Grant Gilchrist in the second row as flanker Wilson, one of four Glasgow Warriors selected, packs down on the blindside instead of Johnnie Beattie.
"The forwards especially were a hard pick but we're happy. We believe we've got a good combination to go in against formidable opposition," said Johnson.
Scotland did win the last meeting of the two nations, 12-8 at Murrayfield, but have won just twice in their last eight outings, with those successes coming against Italy and Japan.
Ireland: 15 R Kearney, 14 D Kearney, 13 O'Driscoll, 12 Marshall, 11 Trimble, 10 Sexton, 9 Murray; 1 Healy, 2 Best, 3 Ross, 4 Toner, 5 O'Connell (capt), 6 O'Mahony, 7 Henry, 8 Heaslip
Replacements: 16 Cronin, 17 McGrath, 18 Moore, 19 Tuohy, 20 O'Donnell, 21 Boss, 22 Jackson, 23 McFadden
Scotland: 15 Hogg, 14 Maitland, 13 Dunbar, 12 Taylor, 11 Lamont, 10 Weir, 9 Laidlaw; 1 Grant, 2 Ford, 3 Low, 4 Swinson, 5 Hamilton, 6 Wilson, 7 Brown (capt), 8 Denton
Replacements: 16 MacArthur, 17 Dickinson, 18 Cross, 19 Gray, 20 Beattie, 21 Cusiter, 22 Scott, 23 Evans
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