O'Driscoll demands Irish push from the off

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The Independent Online

Scotland's big weekend did not get off to an ideal start yesterday when they were delayed for an hour and a half at Edinburgh airport because of a computer booking glitch.

Fortunately the delay caused only minor disruption to their preparations for today's Six Nations match with Ireland, who did not allow the last-minute withdrawal of the Wasps flanker Johnny O'Connor, because of a groin strain, to disrupt their own schedule.

The Ireland captain, Brian O'Driscoll, is looking for an explosive start at Lansdowne Road. "We have probably started more slowly than we'd have wanted to in our opening three games," he said. "A good start is essential in these close encounters. So hopefully we will go from the 'b' of the bang rather than from the 'g'."

Five teams can still end up as champions, but an away win here would knock Ireland out of the running. However, the Scots last won a Six Nations match away from home in 2002, against Wales in Cardiff, and if the Irish can get the crowd behind them that support could be worth a few vital points.

"We need to create the atmosphere to get the crowd going," said O'Driscoll. "So, as I said, it is about starting well and giving the crowd something to shout about, because they can be worth a couple of scores."

With this being the final Six Nations match at this decaying old ground - after this autumn's internationals Lansdowne Road will undergo extensive refurbishment - the home fans in the 49,000 crowd will probably be emotional enough anyway.

No one should underestimate the Scots this season, of course, and the Ireland coach, Eddie O'Sullivan, will not make that mistake.

"Scotland are playing a very well organised, very well structured game," he said. "There is a good balance to it, they are taking the ball up, moving it wide and kicking the ball to the corners and turning opponents. Their defence has improved quite dramatically and they have forced teams into a lot of errors, which they then capitalise on. It has been a return to their traditional approach.

"In their heyday, if they got a sniff of a possibility of victory, they would beat you. They rarely lost tight games and played with a lot of passion and a lot of pride. I suppose the one thing that has made the difference this season has been [the coach] Frank Hadden, because it is pretty much the same squad. Frank has had an incredible effect on the side. There is a synergy about the Scottish team now. They are the surprise package of the tournament, just like Wales were last year, and a lot of the credit has to go to Frank for that."

The Irish will have to hold their own at the set-pieces, disrupt the Scots' approach work and get the ball into the hands of their backs at every opportunity.

The Scottish line-out is back to full strength, with the return of the lock Scott Murray, and Sean Lamont and Chris Paterson pose a threat out wide.

Scotland have not won here since 1998, but Murray was upbeat yesterday. "It's been a massive turnaround and it's all to do with confidence," he said. "This is going to be a tough weekend, but the players are striving to improve all the time and a win is possible."

Lansdowne Road teams

Ireland

15 G Murphy (Leicester)

14 S Horgan (Leinster)

13 B O'Driscoll (capt, Leinster)

12 G D'Arcy (Leinster)

11 A Trimble (Ulster)

10 R O'Gara (Munster)

9 P Stringer (Munster)

1 M Horan (Munster)

2 J Flannery (Munster)

3 J Hayes (Munster)

4 M O'Kelly (Leinster)

5 P O'Connell (Munster)

6 S Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets)

7 D Wallace (Munster)

8 D Leamy (Munster)

REPLACEMENTS: 16 R Best, 17 S Best (both Ulster); 18 D O'Callaghan, 19 M O'Driscoll (both Munster); 20 E Reddan (Wasps); 21 D Humphreys (Ulster); 22 G Dempsey (Leinster)

Scotland

15 H Southwell (Edinburgh)

14 C Paterson (Edinburgh)

13 M Di Rollo (Edinburgh)

12 A Henderson (Glasgow)

11 S Lamont (Northampton)

10 D Parks (Glasgow)

9 M Blair (Edinburgh)

1 G Kerr (Leeds)

2 D Hall (Edinburgh)

3 B Douglas (Borders)

4 N Hines (Perpignan)

5 S Murray (Edinburgh)

6 J White (Sale, capt)

7 A Hogg (Edinburgh)

8 S Taylor (Edinburgh)

REPLACEMENTS: 16 S Lawson (Glasgow); 17 C Smith, 18 A Kellock (both Edinburgh); 19 J Petrie (Glasgow); 20 C Cusiter (Borders); 21 G Ross (Leeds); 22 S Webster (Edinburgh)

REFEREE: S Dickinson (Australia)

KICK-OFF: 3.30pm (BBC1)

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