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Thursday 17 October 2019

Scotland's twin turbos must be torpedoed in typhoon

VISION: Finn Russell. Pic: Sportsfile
VISION: Finn Russell. Pic: Sportsfile

Tropical storm Tapah is making its' way mercilessly towards Japan.

Rough seas. High winds. Flash-flooding. Mud slides. They are all possible consequences of typhoon season in the Far East.

At the moment, it looks like Ireland and Scotland might escape the worst of what is forecasted.

However, the combination of heat and high humidity and rain, slight or slashing, would make a high-stakes gambler hedge his bets.

Wiping everything else clean, it is likely the ball will be wet and difficult to master along the line and from the air.

THREAT: Stuart Hogg. Pic: Sportsfile
THREAT: Stuart Hogg. Pic: Sportsfile

Apparently, the Scots have even gone so far as to use shampoo to grease the ball at training.

Gregor Townsend was always a mercurial, maverick out-half, one who played, not just thought, outside the box.

The genial Scot has carried that can of creativity into coaching, always looking to keep players on their feet, moving the point of attack to unbalance the opposition.

The twin-turbos of their attack are Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg and they need no invitation to cut you open like a surgeon.

They do not rely on a multi-phase process where the defence has to be pulled out of shape and numbers exhausted.

They can simply gash with one imaginative flash from the out-half or a one of those superior lines from the full-back.

No one will easily forget Russell's ball-beating-man candidate for 'Pass of the Century' that led to Sean Maitland's try against England in 2018.

There are few who would have seen it, never mind have had the audacity to throw it.

It is this fearless, open-minded attitude to the game, backed up by unique gifts, that has enabled Russell to shred the best organised defences in the game.

The caveat, of course, is that is can also get Scotland into a world of trouble when someone, eh like Jacob Stockdale, picks off one of those glory balls, even though there is a lot more to Russell's repertoire.

It was no shock when the out-half immediately struck up a telepathic understanding with Simon Zebo at Racing 92.

In this case, creative minds think alike.

On international duty, Scotland just exchanges Hogg for Zebo and away they go.

Should Scotland's front five, led by captain Stuart McInally, stand the test of time and their loose forwards, Jon Barclay and Hamish Watson, protect their ruck ball, those slippery suckers can cause mayhem.

In a match bound to swing on big moments, Russell and Hogg must be denied theirs.

Ireland: J Larmour; A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong, J Ryan, I Henderson, P O'Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, A Porter, T Beirne, J Conan; L McGrath, J Carty, C Farrell.

Scotland: S Hogg; T Seymour, D Taylor, S Johnson, S Maitland; F Russell, G Laidlaw; A Dell, S McInally (capt), WP Nel, G Gilchrist, J Gray, J Barclay, H Watson, R Wilson.

Replacements: F Brown, G Reid, S Berghan, S Cummings, B Thomson; A Price, C Harris, D Graham.

Verdict: Ireland.

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