YOKOHAMA, Japan - Excitement is building for the Ireland Vs. Scotland game on Sunday which will see the two teams compete for only the second time in the Rugby World Cup.
An opening win in Yokohama will put Ireland in the box seat to reach the knockout stages as Pool A winners.
Eight of Ireland's starting XV will be making their Rugby World Cup debuts in the game. A member of the 2007, 2011 and 2015 squads, captain Rory Best packs down at hooker for his 121st Ireland cap and his twelfth World Cup appearance.
Head coach Joe Schmidt has made five changes to the team that defeated Wales 19-10 a fortnight ago in the final warm-up match. Jordan Larmour, one of five World Cup newcomers in the back-line, moves to full-back in place of Rob Kearney who has an injured calf.
Andrew Conway, who has scored four tries in his last six Tests, and Jacob Stockdale, with three tries in two outings against Scotland, will offer significant threats on either wing, while Garry Ringrose slots in alongside Bundee Aki in midfield. Keith Earls (thigh) and Robbie Henshaw (hamstring) both miss out.
Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray provide plenty of World Cup experience at half-back, having both played in the 2011 and 2015 editions. Vice-captain Peter O'Mahony resumes at blindside flanker, winning his 60th cap at the start of his third World Cup tournament.
The back row is completed by Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander, who reverts to number 8, and Iain Henderson, a returning player from England 2015, rejoins James Ryan in the second row. Leinster pair Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong flank Best in a formidable front row.
The eight players on the Irish bench are all featuring at their first World Cup Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne and Andrew Porter cover the front row, Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan are the other forward replacements, and Luke McGrath, Jack Carty and Chris Farrell are the back-line options.
Asked about his side peaking at just the right time in Yokohama, Schmidt said: "You've just got to hope so, I can't guarantee anything. In 48 hours' time we'll have a better idea. We'll be just arriving in the stadium and getting ready to warm up, I'll be anxious, and so will many others. Because you never quite know.
"But one thing I'll be really confident of is that we'll be tough to beat. That in 48 hours' time I think you'll see a very collective effort, and that effort will make us tough to beat. I've no doubt that the Scots will have been working away and will make themselves something similar.
"I don't think there's a huge amount between the two teams, so whoever does get the bounce of the ball or just be a little more efficient than the other just may tip the balance."
Speaking about the team selection and the players working back from injuries, he admitted: "It was really just that we were getting tight for time. The best continuity we had was to have the guys we'd had training through the time we've been here.
It's exciting to have the back-three we've got as well. It's a great opportunity and a fantastic challenge. I think that Andrew and Jordan's enthusiasm is something that's contagious, their ability to get themselves into the game.
"Andrew has proven aerial ability and that will be really useful for us. I still have the vision very clearly in my mind of Jordan Larmour beating Israel Folau to a ball in the third Test in Sydney on our Australian tour last year.
"So he's very good there as well, and of course Jacob is a big man in the back-field. They're all feeding off each other, they are all very, very keen to impress, and now they have that opportunity.
"Iain Henderson has almost got 50 caps. He was involved in the big games at the last World Cup last time and to have that experience is really important, particularly in the first game out.
"Jean Kleyn, I have no doubt, he will feature in some really important games for us. Tadhg Beirne coming off the bench has the ability to change the game up. We have also got Jack Conan on the bench as well but Tadhg puts really great pressure on the ball and he has a little bit more time with us than Jean."
He added: "You'll see Joey (Carbery) will run fully in the warm-up as a reserve back. Keith Earls was the sharpest player at training on Wednesday. He was certainly the quickest. He was very, very sharp. Rob Kearney trained well as well."
Meanwhile, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made ten changes to the team that saw off Georgia 36-9 recently, with two-thirds of the starting line-up having previous Rugby World Cup experience.
"We've had a really productive week's preparation in Nagasaki ahead of our arrival in Tokyo, with our players adapting to the time zone and weather conditions out here in Japan," said Townsend.
"As we've got closer to the game against Ireland, our training has been more about fine-tuning the hard work that's gone in over pre-season into a focus for Sunday's game.
"Our team has a lot of experience playing together in major games for Scotland, with a bench capable of making a difference when required. That cohesion, experience and leadership is very valuable in a build-up to a match of this magnitude as well as during the 80 minutes on Sunday."
Exeter Chiefs full-back Stuart Hogg and Saracens winger Sean Maitland return to the back-three, linking up with fellow British & Irish Lion Tommy Seymour, while another Lions pair, Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw, also slot back in as a tried-and-trusted half-back pairing.
Centres Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor are the only backs retained, with Johnson's Glasgow Warriors club-mates Ryan Wilson and Jonny Gray also keeping their paces up front. The remaining six changes in the forwards include the front row trio of Allan Dell, captain Stuart McInally and Willem Nel.
Townsend added: "In Ireland we face quality opposition who, over the past number of years, have earned the right to be the number one ranked side in the world. We know them well and are well aware of the strengths they possess throughout their squad.
"We expect them to play very well, as they did in their most recent games against Wales, so only our best performance will do in order to win. The prospect of facing them in the opening round of a Rugby World Cup is a fantastic challenge for our players and supporters around the world."
IRELAND: Jordan Larmour (St Mary's College/Leinster); Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster), Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster), Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht), Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt), Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), Iain Henderson (Queen's University/Ulster), James Ryan (UCD/Leinster), Peter O'Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster).
Replacements: Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster), Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster), Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster), Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht), Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster).
SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Maitland (Saracens); Finn Russell (Racing 92), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne); Allan Dell (London Irish), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) (capt), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), John Barclay (Edinburgh), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).
Replacements: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Gordon Reid (Ayrshire Bulls), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Blade Thomson (Scarlets), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Harris (Gloucester), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh).
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Pascal Gazre, Alexandre Ruiz (both France)
Television Match Official: Graham Hughes (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 2/7.
(Photo credit: INPHO/Dan Sheridan).