Horgan: Ireland's back row key to victory over Scotland

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Jonathan Sexton misses out with a calf injury, but Ulster's Paddy Jackson - who started in the 27-24 win against Australia in November, as well as the Test victory over South Africa in the summer - will wear the No. 10 jersey.

WARREN GATLAND WAS an interested spectator at Ireland training on Tuesday at Carton House, with photos of the Lions boss - on leave from his position as Wales head coach - sparking some speculation that Joe Schmidt might have reeled in his session.

In addition to the ballast of CJ Stander, Seán O'Brien and Iain Henderson, amongst others, there is Cian Healy, Ultan Dillane and Josh van der Flier to spring from the replacements. And Stapleton believes the looming World Cup will ensure that this year's Six Nations is more competitive than ever before. He's approaching his best form.

"New Zealanders are incredibly excited about the Lions".

10. Martyn Williams. 51 appearances for Wales
GETTY 10. Martyn Williams. 51 appearances for Wales

Despite labouring at times, Wales equalled their best autumn record by November's end with victories over Argentina, Japan and South Africa - but the disappointing defeat to Australia and the manner of those wins leaves many anxious that this could be a Six Nations campaign to forget.

England go into the Six Nations as favourite after an undefeated campaign in 2016.

Who will win between Scotland and Ireland? "I know there's a number of Munster guys on our team and there's a number of Glasgow Warriors in theirs but it's a different environment, Ireland against Scotland, and that in itself puts a different hue on the whole thing".

November fifth 2016 was the greatest day in the history of Irish rugby. "It helps, but the whole forward pack is in a really good place and we all know our jobs and we all know our roles".

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Something Joe Schmidt won't want to see in Murrayfield tomorrow, the Ireland team consistently let out-half Craig Chalmers through the middle in acres of space.

As it stands, Ireland are the best team in Europe, in terms of player strength. The English. with the confidence. there is no reason why they can't go through unbeaten again and win it.

The Six Nations and all its glory returns again for 2017 where champions England will defend their coveted crown. Doing so with a 19th consecutive victory and a grand slam in Ireland would be an incredible achievement.

Despite a great deal of talk surrounding Wales' tactical evolution, Rob Howley has selected a very familiar team to face Italy. They have not won an opening Championship match since 2006 and have also lost their last four encounters with Ireland.

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"He's a quality nine, he's a quality player, he's shown that and backed it up time and time again this season, and what we're asking from him is another one of those performances that he's delivered regularly this season". Most of the Irish team can compete for a place, but Furlong, Jack McGrath, Toner, Stander, O'Brien, Heaslip, Murray and Henshaw are nearly confirmed a place, with Best one of the main candidates for captaining the tour.

The rise of Stapleton's own career has in many ways mirrored that of women's rugby in Ireland.

Ireland should beat Scotland by 15 points, England against France will be closer, with a resurgence by the French.

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