Tom Tierney’s Aon-sponsored side has already relinquished their title and will be hoping to maintain their position just above Wales on points difference.
It has been a year of transition for Ireland, with no less than 14 new caps introduced throughout the season. Tierney sees that as a positive despite losing both away games to France (6-18) and England (9-13).
The coach enthused about a solid win over Wales to kick off their campaign and another over gritty Italy, who tomorrow provide the opposition for the Welsh in Aberavon.
Of the two games, Ireland are more likely to succeed with points to spare, given Scotland have yet to register a win and have been on the end of hammerings from both the French and English.
With silverware out of the equation, Tierney has decided to experiment once again and has made several changes from the team that defeated Italy last week. It’s all being done to strengthen the player base. “Building strength in depth has been a key focus for us. Since we began the season with an autumn Test against England, there have been 14 newcomers and broadening the base is very important going forward.
“We wanted to be competitive and didn’t want to disrespect the championship by putting in all newbies; we kept the experienced players to provide the spine of the team but, yes, it was important to introduce new players into the mix.”
Tierney is not underestimating Scotland: “We have some new combinations out there and Scotland play a very competitive game under their new coach Shade Munroe. Hopefully, though, we will do enough to finish the campaign on a high.”
N Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster, capt); L Burke (UL Bohemians/Munster), C McLaughlin (Queen’s University/Ulster), S Naoupu (Galwegians/Connacht), A Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); N Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), L Muldoon (Skewen); R O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Z Grattage (Tralee/Munster), A Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster); E Anthony (Highfield/Munster), C Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster); C Griffin (Tralee/Munster), C Molloy (Bristol), P Fitzpatrick (Toulouse)
C Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), F Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), F Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster), O Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s/Leinster), S Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), M Healy (Galwegians/Connacht), A Donnelly (Cill Dara/Leinster), K Flood (Railway Union/Leinster).