Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt itching to prove his point against Scotland

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt itching to prove his point against Scotland

England need to win the match to remain in contention to win a third straight Six Nations title, while France are merely looking for a morale boost after a hard two years that has seen them win only a third of their matches. Even though Scotland flew out to 21-5 after 30 minutes, Ireland rallied to lead 22-21 until less than 10 minutes to go.

Ireland blamed the bus arriving at Murrayfield 15 minutes late on their 27-22 loss to Scotland past year - and captain Best insisted his side have learned the hard way how to clear unforeseen hurdles.

There was a time in Irish rugby when a win against Scotland was nearly the Holy Grail.

Munster centre Chris Farrell - man of the match against Wales - has joined the likes of Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne on the sidelines after being ruled out for the remainder of the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered in training last week.

Ireland began the day five points clear of England at the top of the Six Nations table. Glasgow's Lee Jones is promoted to the bench, meanwhile.

Ireland punted an eminently kickable penalty to the corner, only to come away with no reward for that early enterprise. Against the run of play, the Scots took the first points from a Greig Laidlaw penalty. Sexton's conversion pushed Ireland into a 21-3 advantage.

Scrumhalf Conor Murray wriggled over early in the second half to widen Ireland's advantage, but it was replacement Sean Cronin's try in the 68th minute that could prove a title victor.

"We haven't talked about the bigger picture of the championship at all - just putting in a good performance against Ireland", said the defence chief.

"I believe that if we manage to stop Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray then that'll have a big impact on the game but we'll have to stop them as well as 13 or 14 other guys".

Sexton converted, and Irish fans started singing.

The last time England engineered four touchdowns on French soil was in 1992 and, with the breakdown nightmare that surfaced at Murrayfield a fortnight ago evident once again, they came apart in a tense encounter of low quality.

"We must make sure we don't let any distractions catch us", said Best, ahead of Ireland hosting Scotland at the Aviva Stadium today.

"It would be nice to prove him wrong but it won't be motivation for us doing it just because somebody called us homers".

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