Sexton is Ireland’s talisman and the current World Rugby Player of the Year. After a poor team display against England last weekend, the Leinster fly-half will be eager to showcase his expertise at Murrayfield and kickstart Ireland’s tilt towards retaining the Six Nations. His usual telepathic partnership with Conor Murray was lacking fluency, in defeat to Eddie Jones’ side, with both players coming into the tournament struggling to uphold their lofty standards.
The holder of the No. 10 shirt for Scotland and facing up against Sexton today is Racing 92 creative genius, Finn Russell. A summer switch to the French capital has allowed the stand-off to fully express himself without any restraints, as his Top 14 side play an off-the-cuff style of rugby that plays into Russell’s strengths. Aided by his trusty scrum-half lieutenant, Greig Laidlaw, the Top 14-playing duo provide the Scots with world class talent in the halves.
Last weekend, Greig & Finn were able to set up a perfect platform to attack from, forcing a high tempo and distributing quick ruck ball kept Italy on the back foot. Ireland HC Joe Schmidt will have identified this area and will look at targeting Scotland at the breakdown to slow down their flow of ball to their dangerous back line.
Two defeats in two years at home shows how comfortable Scotland have become at winning under Gregor Townsend. The Sexton v Farrell match-up of two world-class fly-halves will have rugby supporters chomping at the bit to see this clash. The winner will be decided up front, by the forward packs, winning the battle on the gain-line to provide their 10’s with a solid platform to execute their game plan.
Ireland will be hurting from their loss to England, ending a run of 12 victories in a row at the Aviva Stadium. Facing a Scotland side riding the crest of a wave, with a home record of 10 wins from twelve and the confidence to dispatch the recent Grand Slam winners following a memorable win in 2017.
This fixture will be tense and the game could be decided by a mistake or a piece of genius sparked by either Russell or Sexton. It remains to be seen if Ireland are in a decline or just failed to show up physically in last weeks defeat. With the two sides meeting each other in Yokohama in their first game of the World Cup, getting the upper hand today could be important for the psychological battle ahead of the game in Japan.