Keeping in line with Rory’s Episcopal writings Chris Paterson has risen from his resting place on the subs bench to take his place in the Scotland starting XV for the game against Wales. Paterson has come in at 15 and Kelly Brown (8) has come in to replace David Callum who has dropped out the squad entirely. Ally Hogg has been called into the subs bench and will no doubt be looking to make a big impact if (when?) he gets on the pitch. The rest of the first XV have remained unchanged and means that Dan Parks and Nick De Luca, neither of whom set the heather alight on Sunday, will face up to the Welsh.
Here is a look at the starting XV for the game down in Cardiff on Saturday (2pm kick-off):
1) Allan Jacobsen – Scotlands main attacking drive from the forwards against France. Having a good season for Edinburgh and encouraging to see that being carried into the international arena.
2) Ross Ford – Coped ok on Sunday but is he able to cope in the scrum with the strongest nations? Will be interesting to see how he holds up against the Welsh.
3) Euan Murray – Big, powerful but not a real threat at the lineout.
4) Nathan Hines – The aggressive drive for Scotland but never really fired against France. If he can up his game Scotland can prosper.
5) Jim Hamilton – Another big player and helped stabilise the Scottish scrum, very noticeable when he went off. Question marks over his effectiveness in the lineout (compared to say Scott Murray).
6) Jason White (C) – a big game for Jason. Was disappointing against the French and question mark remains over his ability to lead when the going gets tough. He needs to demonstrate his ability to put the big hits in and make the metres up otherwise his place is surely at risk.
7) John Barclay – one of the brighter spots on Sunday and will look to take the game to the Welsh. Expect him to be a big player on Saturday.
8 ) Kelly Brown – looked good when he came on and has been in fine form this season.
9) Mike Blair – Hmmmm, wasn’t amazing on Sunday and thought Cusiter may have got the nod. His form for his club has been good but he needs to move the ball quicker.
10) Dan Parks – Still a fan but this suddenly becomes a big game for Scotland’s #1 ass-patter. Another stinker will put him under huge pressure but if he can do the basics well and kick Scotland into good position he could become a very large thorn in Wales side. His passing needs to improve though.
11) Simon Webster – struggled in a Scotland shirt lately but in a thankless role of Scotland winger starved of service.
12) Andy Henderson – dodged a bullet, twice, when neither carded nor cited for his ‘head-butt’ on Traille. He will no doubt want to make a positive impression against Wales and will look to make some hard yards, which unlike head-butting, is something he does well.
13) Nick de Luca – had a shocking start to his international career but came onto a game as the match progressed. Glad he is back in the team and hopefully being in an atmosphere where the pressure will be off him he will have a chance to show just what he is capable off. By the end of this 6 Nations he may prove to be a permanent fixture at 13.
14) Nikki Walker – probably had his best game in a Scotland shirt in the France match. A couple of very good runs and looked a handful for the French. If he can take that form into the Wales game he has the potential to be explosive and surely the opportunity to get one over so many of his team mates will spur him on. Will be a valuable source of intel on the opposition.
15) Chris ‘The Prodigal Son’ Paterson – having been dropped Paterson will have it all to prove. As Rory mentioned in another section Paterson looked as sharp as he has in a awful long time and 15 may yet prove to be the best place for him as he will be able to run the ball and he can beat his men. Could this be the game that Paterson cements his status as a modern legend of the Scotland game? Bold prediction but I expect him to score a try and maintain his kicking prowess.
On paper it is another fairly strong Scotland squad and I don’t think they will be able to play as badly again as they did on Sunday. Wales had a superb result against England but it is important to remember that for 40 minutes of that match the Welsh were abysmal and to a certain degree the English shot themselves in the foot. In saying all that, the Welsh crowd will expect a win against Scotland and they will go in big favourites and rightfully so. It promises to be a fascinating battle with 2 very distinct styles of play coming up against each other. I imagine Scotland will try to keep it tight, utilise Parks kicking from hand and play for territory while the Welsh will play the usual high tempo game based on running and moving the ball out wide – just like France… A big area for Scotland will be the lineout, a notoriously weak area for the Welsh, where they failed to apply any real pressure against the French. The kicking of Dan Parks only becomes a weapon if the Scots can pressure the Welsh lineout and either force bad ball or, even better, a turnover. If Scotland dominate in the set pieces they will likely go on and win the game but if they struggle as in the second half against the French then Scotland could be in for a very long afternoon.
In my pre-tournament piece I predicted Scotland would win against France and lose to Wales. Obviously I got the France game horribly wrong but I suspect I may be closer to the mark against Wales. That’s not to say that I don’t think Scotland can win, they have a good chance of doing damage against the Welsh but Wales are on a high and will be out to impress against Scotland…
Actually, sod all that, I’m an optimist, Scotland to win by 10 points in a hugely inspiring and disciplined display of aggressive rugby!
God loves an optimist…
Over and out.