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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Murray's-Field of Irish Dreams

Irish scrumhalf will have to keep close eye on Laidlaw

CONOR MURRAY would have taken the position Ireland have worked their way into at Murrayfield at the start of the Six Nations.

"You want be in the frame for a trophy and that is what everyone wants to do," he said.

"We got a taste for it last year. You don't suddenly become less motivated. You want to win it again even more.

"We are all pretty focussed and it is exciting."

HEARTBEAT

Scotland's captain Greig Laidlaw is also their scrumhalf and, in Murray's opinion, "the heartbeat of the Scottish team".

"No-one has hammered them or beaten them comprehensively.

"They are a side who will stick around and we are going over there fully focussed on performing and looking to get a result."

The unusual latitude provided by Murrayfield's deep dead-ball zone could encourage a kick similar to that which Murray supplied for Robbie Henshaw's try against England at The Aviva Stadium.

Laidlaw is just as adept and just as likely to look for profit through the air.

"He really gets things going and makes them tick. His kicking game is quite dangerous," stated Murray.

"When they get advantage, have a free play or getting momentum they'll try those little chips, kicks, 50-50 balls into that big dead-ball area.

"That's probably one of the big areas that us as a backfield unit, the back three and scrumhalves included are worrying about and trying to defuse anything they put into the air.

"Any time I've played against him he's putting something up in that area."

Laidlaw is made out of the same mould as his uncle Roy Laidlaw, one-half of Scotland's famous double-act with John Rutherford in the 1980s, in that he likes to manipulate the fringes in a variety of ways.

"He does make things tick around him and he has little micro-plays he likes to use around the ruck so we've got to be really solid around there with the first three defenders outside the ruck and just keep an eye on him.

"He brings his wingers into play off the blindside quite regularly and effectively.

"Like any nine we've come across this season, they're all threats around that area and we need to be nailed on."

Laidlaw is not the only one that will take watching.

NULLIFIED

The main thread of responsibility lies with most of the same men who nullified the English back row.

Above and beyond that Ireland will have to go after points at some stage.

It is just a matter of how and when, partly based on what happens on Rome earlier.

"We realise we have a chance to win the Championship," said Murray. "It is the same as last year, if it is going to be won on points-difference.

"We know we are in the mix so all we can do is go over and do our best."

That might just be good enough.

Scotland: S Hogg; D Fife, M Bennett, M Scott, T Seymour; F Russell, G Laidlaw; R Grant, R Ford, E Murray, J Hamilton, J Gray, A Ashe, B Cowan, D Denton.

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, J Payne, R Henshaw, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O'Connell, P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

verdict: Ireland

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