Ireland back

Ireland's back row can expect a tough battle from their counterparts when they host Scotland in Dublin on Saturday.

That is the word from former Ireland loose forward Denis Leamy who said his country's developing back row, consisting of CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier and Jamie Heaslip, will have their work cut out, against the wily Scots, but expects them to rise to the occasion.

“The Irish back-row will be up against it, that’s not something that will phase them but there will be big games needed from CJ, Jamie and Josh. They’ll need to do what they did last week (against Italy) and probably bring a little bit more as well," Leamy told The42.

“Their (Scotland’s) back-row is very good, and Scotland have always had good backrows over a recent period of time.

“I think they out-muscled France and dictated the game at the breakdown and that’s where a lot of the game was won and lost. Obviously the Gray brothers (Jonny and Richie) are very influential in that pack and they bring a huge amount of quality into what they do.

“I know Scotland managed to beat Ireland a few years ago (2010) in Dublin, but this is probably the first time in a while that the Scottish team has players that can really hurt you in the likes of (Stuart) Hogg and (Tommy) Seymour and these sort of guys. They’re a very good side and there’s a bit of confidence in Scottish rugby and you can see why."

Leamy, who played in 57 Tests between 2004 and 2011, believes Saturday's challenge will measure Stander and Van der Flier's international development.

“This will be a different test," added the 34-year-old.

"I’ve been very impressed with CJ and Josh, they’re both new to international rugby and they’ve both taken very well to that standard and level.

“CJ gives you so much impact on the ball and gets you on that go-forward that you need so much at this level. He’s a guy that looks to the manor born to the same degree that Josh does. He’s a little bit younger and a guy to get very excited about.” 

Leamy maintains that despite the injection of fresh blood into Joe Schmidt's squad due to injury, the head coach has had a productive competition and has done well to combine the experience and young talent available. 

“It’s easy to be critical… and expectations are very high but the dynamic can change a little bit in that the Irish squad has suffered a huge amount of injuries," explained Leamy.

"You just think of Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, there’s been injury to our front-row players and obviously the retirement of Paul O’Connell as well. 

"The margins are small at this level and I just feel with the amount of guys that Ireland are missing, and with the new players, it hasn’t been as bad a campaign as some people would lead you to believe.

“I think Joe has taken a very good attitude in that he’s introduced the new players bit by bit. You see the likes of Ultan Dillane getting exposure and then Josh and Kieran Marmion and these kind of guys and I think it’s a good way to go about it because it’s not a massive overhaul.

“He’s got a nice blend of youth and experience and he’s letting these guys to an extent feel their way into international rugby. It takes a little bit of time to get to the pitch of that level and standard."

Ireland have only lost two of their last 14 Six Nations clashes with Scotland, while Scotland have secured back-to-back wins over France and Italy the past two weeks following their tight losses to England and Wales.