Kearney starts for Ireland against Scotland

Ireland's Kearney set for 6 Nations return - Nine Wide World of Sports

Ireland's Kearney set for 6 Nations return - Nine Wide World of Sports

The Scots will be looking to dish out a fresh serving of pain to Joe Schmidt's men at Murrayfield this weekend after the 2018 Grand Slam winners were swiped aside by England in their Guinness Six Nations opener.

Kearney last played for Ireland during the November series Test against All Blacks and missed the opening game of the series against England in Dublin with a thigh injury.

"We just muscled our way through it to be honest", said a relieved Schmidt.

"He doesn't seem to like us, Romain". "He took a stamp to the head and on the ankle".

Admitting Ireland expected Scotland to single out Sexton and attempt to shut him down physically, Schmidt insisted that worked to the visitors' advantage. Early in the second half, the replacement fly-half broke through the Scotland line and threw a huge, looping pass and found Keith Earls who widened the gap.

Schmidt was phlegmatic on Scotland targeting Sexton, replying: "It was going to happen, and Johnny probably knew he was only going to play 20 minutes so tried to cram it all into one quarter!"

"He got into a few contact situations and that position for Jacob Stockdale's pass was an example". So sometimes that works to our advantage. "I just think his current strategy to success; to scoring points and tries is very one-dimensional".

Maitland - who has four Heineken Champions Cup tries from five appearances this season - will form a familiar back three with Glasgow Warriors wing Tommy Seymour and full-back Stuart Hogg, with the trio combining for the 18th time for Scotland.

"We need to be able to be flexible, we need to be able to have guys transition in and out as seamlessly as possible so that's an opportunity that's presented itself and maybe there would have been a bit of that anyway".

Schmidt admitted Ireland fell flat in their build-up to their England defeat, but was pleased and relieved to report greater buoyancy and urgency in Edinburgh.

"You've got to have a lot of energy when you make as many tackles as we did in the first half. We still have to rely on others in the championship, but we will take stock after the next round and look at what we have to do in the final two".

Scotland then suffered an injury setback of its own when influential full back Stuart Hogg was forced off the field with what appeared to be a shoulder injury after 16 minutes.

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