Two wins on the hoof for Scotland, both won in very different circumstances and both against statistics that would see most teams soundly beaten. You might be forgiven for thinking the breaks between games had been pre-planned just to let us catch a breath.
Scotland come up against a resurgent if slightly spluttery Wales on Saturday with a chance to go second in the table and even (whisper it) push for the Championship itself. But what do Scotland need to do to overcome the Welsh?
1. Score More Than 20 Points
There is an old saying in Rugby: You don’t beat Wales… You just score more points than them. Scotland are not going to be able to grind out a win by sticking bodies on the line like they did against Ireland. The good news is Scotland have shown they can score tries and no longer have to rely on the boot in order to pick up points. However Scotland may have to find a way to rack up 20 points or more in order to ensure a win and keep themselves in the hunt.
2. Catch Wales Napping
Wales are not quick out the blocks. All of their tries in the tournament so far have come in the 2nd half and most of the points they’ve conceded have come in the 1st half. To beat Wales Scotland have to rack up as many points as possible in the first 50 minutes as history suggests they will have to survive an onslaught once the Dragon wakes up.
3. Keep The Heid
Leigh Halfpenny has his kicking boots on and has only missed twice in the tournament so far. Neither kick was as easy as the ones missed by Paddy Jackson two weeks ago. Scotland cannot rely on errant kicking and must keep the penalty count down in their own half. Keeping 15 men on the pitch for the full 80 minutes is also crucial. The loss of Ryan Grant didn’t make much difference against Ireland but Wales are better equipped to take advantage of extra numbers.
4. Make Touch
The selection of Duncan Weir over Jackson suggests Scotland might be looking to try for territory through the boot. Rain is forecast which might help carry the ball into touch but Scotland must make sure it gets there. Wales thrive on phase play and Scotland cannot afford to let ball carriers build up any momentum. Hogg, Visser and Maitland will have to chase every kick to prevent quick throws and mop up any loose balls.
5. Win The Tackle Contest
Our standard #5, this. Scotland’s good fortune in the tournament so far has largely been down to endeavours of the forwards in fighting for every ball. A lack of a genuine openside may have limited the number of turnovers but Scotland were able to slow both Italy and Ireland down in attack. However players were caught out in both matches resulting in penalties and the offer to see the contents of the referee’s pocket if it continued. Scotland were lucky not to incur more than one yellow card against Ireland and will be coming up against a genuine openside in Sam Warburton at the weekend. Warburton may not be in-form at the moment but he will be hungry to prove his worth to both Rob Howley and Warren Gatland.
Additional reporting: Scottish Rugby Blog Staff