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Rugby | Six Nations

Johnson wary of new-look Ireland

Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson has promised his side will not be taken unawares by a much-changed Ireland team in the Six Nations at Murrayfield on Sunday.

Ireland have been forced into making five changes as a result of injuries and the suspension of prop Cian Healy following a bruising 12-6 defeat by leaders England in Dublin last time out.

The most eye-catching decision by Ireland coach Declan Kidney has been to give a debut to Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson rather than recall Ronan O'Gara, Ireland's most-capped player, in place of the injured Jonathan Sexton.

Also making his test debut this weekend will be Jackson's fellow Ulsterman Luke Marshall, in at inside centre after the experienced Gordon D'Arcy was ruled out with a foot injury.

Elsewhere in the backs, left wing Simon Zebo's tournament-ending foot injury led to a recall for utility back Keith Earls.

Meanwhile, the pack showed two changes, with Tom Court replacing Healy after the loosehead prop was suspended for stamping on England's Dan Cole and experienced second row Donncha O'Callaghan coming in for Mike McCarthy, out with a knee injury.

By contrast Australian coach Johnson, who oversaw a 34-10 win over Italy in the second round that left Scotland second in the standings, has made just one change with prop Geoff Cross replacing Euan Murray because the latter's religious convictions mean he won't play on Sundays.

Johnson, promoted from within the Scotland set-up to his caretaker post after coach Andy Robinson resigned as head coach following the defeat by Tonga in November, was adamant all of Ireland's newcomers were worthy of their places.

"We know the players coming in," Johnson said Wednesday. "Their form regionally has been superb and these kids are good players.

"Sometimes what happens is that (people) expect the 'known names' to be a massive, massive loss. But what (people) probably don't know is the 'no names' and how good they are."

The Irish have won their last five Championship matches in Edinburgh but victory over Italy has given Scotland, last season's wooden spoonists, a massive confidence boost.

However, Johnson tried to put the victory in context by saying: "We have got the ability and potential in this side to hurt some teams but we have got to do it consistently. It was one win but let's not get carried away with it."

Meanwhile Johnson insisted he'd no problems with Murray following in the footsteps of the late Scotland international and Olympic champion Eric Liddell in refusing to play on a Sunday.

"I can understand what Euan is saying and it's his decision. We move on and make ours. We get on with it.

"It's not a complicated situation. It's black and white for me.

"As for Geoff, well he's got to scrum - that's what he has been picked for. He's been picked because we deem him strong and that he has shown that when he has played international rugby, he can hold up a scrum."


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