Schmidt expects backlash from friend Cotter

Ross McLean
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Joe Schmidt’s Ireland play Scotland at Murrayfield
IRELAND head coach Joe Schmidt expects fellow countryman Vern Cotter to ensure winless Scotland present a major threat to their Six Nations title aspirations tomorrow.

Reigning champions Ireland head into the Murrayfield clash bidding to claim back-to-back championship crowns for the first time since 1949, although leaders England hold a slender points difference advantage at the table summit.

The New Zealand pair are former coaching partners at Bay of Plenty and Clermont Auvergne although Schmidt is keen to distance himself from the notion of a personal duel.

“I think for VC [Cotter] and myself, I owe a fair bit to VC. I learnt a lot from coaching with him, and I know that he knows me very, very well,” said Schmidt.

“I’ve no doubt he’s got a few things cooked up that will make life difficult for us and he’s got players who are very capable of doing that.

“But it doesn’t really colour it at all. I think the two colours are definitely green and blue, and they will clash.”

Leinster wing Luke Fitzgerald is set to make his first start since November 2013, having battled chronic groin problems in the last two years, and replace Simon Zebo, who has played Ireland’s previous 10 Tests. The only other change to Schmidt’s XV from last Saturday’s deflating loss to Wales at the Millennium Stadium sees British and Irish Lion Cian Healy dislodge Jack McGrath at loosehead prop. Skipper Paul O’Connell, meanwhile, is set to post a new outright record for Ireland’s oldest captain of all time at 35 years and 152 days, having equalled Mick Galwey in Wales.