Rugby World Cup 2019: Ireland v Scotland

By Sports Desk September 20, 2019

Joe Schmidt believes the enthusiasm and confidence of Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale will be "contagious" for Ireland in their opening Rugby World Cup clash with Scotland.

The trio will start in the backs in Yokohama on Sunday, with Ireland having decided against risking experienced duo Keith Earls and Rob Kearney, who have been out with respective calf and thigh injuries.

Kearney's club-mate Robbie Henshaw will also miss out, though the three players are in contention to return against hosts Japan in Ireland's second Pool A match.

Schmidt, who will leave his post in charge of the world's number one side after the tournament, has no doubt Larmour, Conway and Stockdale will repay his faith, however.

"Their enthusiasm is something that's contagious, their ability to get themselves into the game," Schmidt said.

"Andrew has proven that he's got real aerial ability and that will be really useful for us. I still have the vision in my mind clearly of Jordan beating Israel Folau to a ball in the in the third Test in Sydney on our Australian tour so he is very good there as well.

"Jacob, of course, is a big man in the backfield. So, they're all feeding off each other. They're all young men who are very, very keen to impress. The best continuity, we felt, was to have the guys who have trained through the time that we've been here."

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, meanwhile, is buoyed by the experience his side will be able to call on for what is just the second World Cup meeting between the teams.

"I have seen the way they have trained and acted over the last few days," he said. "We have had two of our best ever training sessions, so as a coach, you get excited.

"I also see the experience we have in our squad and that counts for a lot in big games. This will be the first time that this team have all been fit and available. We are missing two or three players but to get a squad that has this experience for such a big game is a real bonus.

"Experience is important. Experience with form - recent form - and really good physical shape makes it even more valuable, and that is what we have with this group this weekend."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ireland – Jacob Stockdale

Having been entrusted to start, World Cup debutant Stockdale will be eager to make his mark.

The 23-year-old gained the most metres – 395 in total – of any player in the 2019 Six Nations, while also beating 23 defenders, more than any other player in the competition.

Scotland – Greig Laidlaw

If Scotland are to claim a positive result, their kicking game will likely be key, making scrum-half Laidlaw their main man for this one.

Laidlaw is on 695 points in total in Tests, with only Chris Paterson ahead of him in the Scottish record books.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Ireland have won six of their last seven games against Scotland, including their last two on the bounce.

- Scotland have opened each of their last four men's Rugby World Cup campaigns with a win, including a 45-10 triumph over this year's hosts Japan in the 2015 edition.

- The only previous World Cup encounter between Ireland and Scotland ended in a 24-15 win for the latter side in October 1991.

- Ireland have won the opening match of their last five men's Rugby World Cup tournaments, having lost their opening game at two of the three editions before this run.

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    "Experience is a funny thing, isn't it? What is it that you've experienced? That's the key," he said.

    "Our young guys, a lot of them have been involved in championship-winning teams in Super Rugby, in big moments, and that's why you can select them with confidence. And they've played well in Test matches that we've selected them in.

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