Scotland have promised to “smash” Johnny Sexton in today's Rugby World Cup pool showdown but have also put referee Wayne Barnes on notice of possible Irish illegality at ruck time.
In comments yesterday that will send this Six Nations rivalry up another level ahead of this keenly anticipated Pool A clash, Scottish assistant coach Matt Taylor said two takeaways from last February’s championship game between the two sides at Murrayfield would be revisited in Yokohama.
Ireland won that encounter 22-13 in Edinburgh but fly-half Sexton lasted just 22 minutes in the spotlight of Scottish defenders before making way for replacement Joey Carbery, who steered the visitors home.
Characterising this morning's game as a contrast between opposing fly-halves, the free-wheeling Finn Russell against a “more regimented” Sexton, Scottish defence coach Taylor said of the Irish playmaker: “We did a good a job on him and I think a lot of teams took a leaf out of our book in terms of getting up and trying to smash him.
He’s a brave player, he plays it right to the line. But if he plays right to the line you tend to smash people and that is what we intend to do.
“They’ve kept him a bit wrapped in cotton wool over the last period because he has taken a lot of hits and knocks. We will certainly be trying to do that to him and they will be trying to do that to Finn as well.
“I love Finn as a player, though Sexton is a very good player. They’re quite different types of players. Finn plays things as he sees them I’d say, while Johnny is a bit more regimented in the way Joe Schmidt likes to play. We’re looking to put a lot of pressure on him like we did last time we played so that’s going to be an objective again for us.”
Taylor spoke about Scotland’s mistakes he believes cost them victory seven months ago but also revealed his team are still smarting over Ireland’s breakdown tactics at Murrayfield.
“We were really frustrated because we thought we did a lot of good things, particularly in defence, one loose pass and another one a well-worked move by them.
“We did a lot of good things and the key is that they score a lot of their tries from the first three phases from set-piece so we just have to make sure we’re on our feet, we’re alive and looking for those funny plays.
“They do have a habit of holding onto people in and around rucks, so we just need to alert the referee (Barnes) to that before the game. I think if they get away with that, then it’s hard to defend so we will make the referee aware.
“We’re up against a very good side but I think we’ve had really good training since we’ve got here and we’re really looking forward to getting stuck into the Irish.”