Scotland v Wales: Match Preview

Scotland find themselves in an unusual position of having lost their opening game of the 6 Nations but still receiving praise for their performance with a handful of players making a number of “teams of the week”. Of course that may reflect on the falling standards of the French national team but the signs are this was a missed opportunity rather than the sign of yet another false dawn.

The second game of the tournament is arguably the most important, especially for teams that lost the opening game. Win and you are still in contention albeit relying on other results. Lose and you’re suddenly locked into the wooden spoon dog fight.

We’ve picked out the five things to look out for during Sunday’s game. The Scotland line up is at the bottom of the article. Let us know what you think in the comments and remember to play nice.

1.Discipline, discipline, discipline

Scotland’s discipline has been worse. Much worse. The issue against France was the field position where Scotland were caught infringing. Scotland were pinged far too many times in their own half and well within Camille Lopez’s kicking range. Scotland have got much better at playing the margins of the game but must be smarter about when to chance an arm and when to leave it.

They face arguably the best kicker in international rugby on Sunday and cannot afford to give away cheap penalties in kickable positions. The problem is that Halfpenny’s range means that a kickable position covers over half the pitch.

2. Ascendent Scrum

Scotland achieved parity with a strong French scrum on Saturday. It has been an area of weakness for Scotland for the past few years especially since the new scrum laws were introduced. It’s clearly an area Cotter has focussed on and at last there is hope that won’t be a constant source of opposition penalty chances.

Much has been made of Samson Lee by the Welsh press following a decent showing in the Autumn. However Lee had a quiet game against England and struggled in the scrum. He faded in the second half, although that could be attributed to his being concussed.  Samson Lee has failed to recover from the concussion her recieved against England and Wales have been forced to make a replacement. Warren Gatland will be cursing his decision to cast Adam Jones out into the cold. Based on the two games at the weekend Scotland have nothing to fear from the Welsh scrum but they must attack it with the same ferocity as they did against France.

3. Witness Wales Fitness (One Hope)

The conditioning of the Welsh based Wales players looks poor. Wales had a good Autumn but the effects of the season have clearly taken their toll and the only stand out players in the second half were those based in France. Jonathan Davies in particular had a very quiet game managing to run only 8 metres with ball in hand. To put that in some context Euan Murray ran the same distance with ball in hand against France.

Wales started the game strongly and the first 40 minutes will be difficult. However Scotland’s conditioning appears to be excellent and if they can keep the score down in the first half then space will start to open up as Welsh legs start to tire. Conditioning is not something you can address in a week.

Webb and Biggar missed a number of tackles against England and Russell and Laidlaw should look to attack this channel. Further out Jonathan Davies looks like the weak link for Bennett to exploit having missed three tackles. In the forwards both Al Wyn Jones and Richard Hibbard were dropping off tackles offering the Gray brothers an opportunity to break the line.

4. Jump in the line

Scotland’s line out is almost back to its imperious best. Ross Ford has shrugged off whatever demons were plaguing his throwing and Johnny Gray has been a revelation for one so young.

Scotland have the ability to cause opposition teams real problems at the line out and the Welsh only managed to win 71% of their own throws against England. The stats also show that England lost two throws but that was down to internal problems within the English pack rather than Welsh interference.

The line out will give Scotland a real attacking opportunity on Sunday even if they don’t have the put in. As much as Scotland have started to develop into a real threat with ball in hand they would be daft to ignore an opportunity to test the weak Welsh line by sticking the ball into the corner.

5. Don’t stop believing

We’ve already touched on the Welsh fitness but Scotland didn’t let their heads drop against France and neither should the crowd. The Murrayfield atmosphere can fall a little flat when there’s little to cheer about on the pitch but Scottish fans now have genuine reason to believe in the ability of the players on the pitch. Maintaining a good level of noise throughout the match can only help lift the players on the pitch regardless of what the scoreboard might say.

Scotland team to face Wales: Stuart Hogg; Sean Lamont, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Blair Cowan, Johnnie Beattie. Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Jim Hamilton, Alasdair Strokosch, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Matt Scott, Grieg Tonks.

Not considered through injury: Adam Ashe (neck), Chris Cusiter (returning from knee), David Denton (calf), Chris Fusaro (ankle), Grant Gilchrist (arm), Tyrone Holmes (returning from face), Ruaridh Jackson (knee), Henry Pyrgos (knee), Tim Swinson (calf), Duncan Taylor (returning from hamstring), Duncan Weir (arm).

24 comments on “Scotland v Wales: Match Preview

  1. another mike on

    Thankfully injuries haven’t taken too much out of the team that did well last week. Visser vs Cuthbert should be interesting given both are a bit dodgy defending. Hopefully Wales will stay true to their ‘power game or warrenball tactics’ and not move the ball wide where visser may be exposed. I hope we stay true to our game and attack them a little wider.

    I think wales need to be well on top up front to win the game, so hopefully we can gain parity and I think we will squeeze through. More of the same from last week and an engaged crowd and we may just manage the win we are well due especially against them. Rub of the green would help as well!

  2. Standoffalot on

    Good to see big Sean back, his physicality will be useful against the Welsh, although a bit harsh on Fife to be out of the squad altogether. I’m not Fife’s biggest fan but it’s hard not to feel for him, is he injured? Scott would always be on the bench if available, and Tonks can cover several positions so it’s hard to argue. Also does anyone know anything about the extent of Tommy Seymour’s injury? Hope it’s not serious, he’s the first name on the team sheet for me. Really looking forward to Sunday, watch the warriors at one, then Scotland at 3. hopefully an even better day come 5 o’clock!

  3. NeilyB on

    Reflect the earlier comments, pleased to see we’ve not been completely ravaged by injury. I would say the one key point this article makes is discipline. I know we had some jammy calls last Saturday but we weren’t playing smart rugby. The French were. This is a young squad still though.

    This said I think if we can keep the penalty count down and play for territory with the kind of attacking rugby that’s really flourishing in the Scotland setup now, we can not only win but win by a decent margin. Wales are excellent poachers still though so if we’re ill disciplined then we’ll be looking at another loss.

    I’ll play the optimistic card and say Scotland by 7-10 points.

  4. Stevey from the TV on

    Seymour is a huge loss, we have lost a major attacking threat. Puts more pressure on the likes on Hogg, Bennet and Dunbar to be our major attacking threats. Shows the problems we face with just a few injuries, we dont have enough depth compared to other teams.

    Visser is a complete Donkey and liability, has worst hands than most modern day props and cant tackle at all. Hardly offered himself in attack last week cant see why he is in the team. I hope I am made to eat my words on Sunday evening however.

    Got to start well and play smart. Finn Russell is class but in the last 20 mins against France he should have been drilling it into the corners as we had rarely played any of the second half in the French half.

    Mon the boys in blue

  5. WhiteShark on

    Intersting that Maitland is not on the injured list… If he is fit, I’d have started him or at the very least had him on the bench. Either way, we could do with him and Seymour being back soon.

  6. Borderer on

    Pity about Seymour, although Lamont will be an able replacement. I worry about Visser’s defence and his commitment in attack, I too hope he proves me wrong. We should be stronger than Wales in the set pieces and we have the backs now to score tries. My worry is the loose where they are so strong and quick at the breakdown, we’ll need to get there in numbers and also in support of players making a break. The top teams, including Wales, when given half an opportunity, exploit it quickly and in numbers, we’re still not good at it.
    Good luck Scotland, we can win this one.

  7. Mr P on

    Agree with the above. Must admit feeling a bit disheartened at the loss of Seymour. re Russell, though, he’s young and I think the developing tactical nous will settle in well with his natural exuberance on the ball, particularly with running it. Those kicks to the corner will come (hopefully this w/end!). A real rugby fest of a w/end: Scotland Under 20s tonight, Edinburgh (both on BBC Alba), and 6 Nations culminating in Glasgow’s game on Sunday and THE match of the w/end.

    Simply Rugby Heaven.

  8. Matto on

    Like others above I’m surprised at the lack of mention of Seymour, Maitland and Fife on the injuries list. However, I’m pleased that Dunbar, Bennett and Hogg are all there. They offer creativity and attacking potency. Timbo just needs a big game and to start getting back on the end of things, and then with Shlong’s physicality it’s not a bad backline set up. This article has given me far too much hope. I really want us to win this one, so it’s going to be emotional – one way or another.

  9. Mike on

    Wouldn’t worry about the missing names on the injury list. The SRU are heading in the right direction but sometimes their communications can be a wee bit lacking. Hoping for a Scotland win on Sun with Hogg running riot and laying the ghosts of last year to rest!

  10. Johnmc on

    Blair Cowan has been a revelation since the AIs and I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on against a very good Wales back row, who do seem a little of the pace at the moment however. And agree that Russell does need to take much more care with his positional kicking – it was erratic last week.
    C’mon Scotland!

  11. pragmatic optomist on

    Scotland have struggled against the Welsh ‘rush defence’ in the last few years. It doesn’t give them any time to think and they do seem to panic slightly. I hope they put in a few chip kicks to keep them on the back foot early in the match. No idea how this game will turn out. For me, it will depend how the Scotland pack play, not the backs.

  12. Neil on

    Intereating onw- Scotland are playing on home ground and I feel that can make a 5-10 point difference. Just look at the Irekland France game. Two sides with almost nothing to separate between them but, with home advantage, Ireland managed to win by a small margin. they had the rub of the green, refereee decisions seemed to go in their favor etc. It could be argued that our defeat to France could have been caused by the same factors- didnt get rub of green, ref decisions went against us, hostile home crowd etc. I think and hope the same will happen this evening in the Scotland game. There are very little differences between Scotland, Ireland, France and Wales so I think home advantage will be a big thing in all of the games between these nations. I rate France fractionally ahead of the rest (appart form England) but home advantage seems to be the key.

    Come on Scotland!

  13. D.P on

    Looking forward to this one,it will be interesting to see if Scotland’s performance was a one off against a poor French side or if it is truly a genuine improvement by them.For Wales it will be interesting to see if they can keep their discipline (just as the under 20s could not,which cost them the game). Also how will the welsh scrums get on now Adam jones is not there ( silly decision by Gatland not to pick him for 6 nations??) They were very poor all over the pitch against a very inexperience English side.Not fit enough? They did look unconditioned,but is Gatland trying to think to far ahead to the World Cup and he is not to concerned how their fitness is at the moment,because they have a lot of conditioning work to come through the spring and summer,where he is taking them to new training facilities all around the world (is his main concern the World Cup at the expense of the 6 nations).Scotland on the other hand do look like a much improved attacking force with a solid defence,But can they now build on and take advantage of this against a lacklustre and ill disciplined looking welsh side this weekend? or maybe the backlash that Gatland may want after losing to the old enemy can come to fruition and the dragon will breath again? We will all see this afternoon?

    My prediction

    Scotland 20 Wales 32( if they both play to their best ) if not
    Scotland 26 Wales 15 ( if Wales are poor and Scotland play to their best at home)

  14. FF on

    Can’t wait for today’s game and desperately want a Scotland win – it’s time we stopped talking about potential and started winning important games.

    The standard of rugby in the 6N so far has been pretty dire and we have a great chance to catch up with our rivals. But whilst our backline looks equal to anyone else’s in the tournament I sense our forward pack is still a bit of a soft touch and as most games seem destined to be dragged down to breakdown trench warfare and maulathons we need to take the initiative and shape the game as we want to play it. That means winning the ball and holding on to it, dictating the pace and field position the game is played in. Obviously, much easier said then done, especially against a British Lions backrow.

  15. Neil on

    Typical- Unlucky Scotland and a game that we have easily won. There was plenty time for a restart but Wales have a habit of getting all the ref decisions that are going when they play us. That said however, we need to find a way of getting more possession and our forwards had a poor game- how can you expect to win games with only 30% possession. That has to improve otherwise we will be finishing fifth. The forwards just let the backs down + the welsh had a bit of luck on their side.

    • Allan on

      Neil, i agree we should have won this game as the Welsh have no creativity other than the garryowen and Jamie Roberts smashing up. We lost this game rather than them winning it. Problem is we wont hear the end of it now from Davies, Guscott etc. Nicol sits there like a stunned mullet and doesnt say anything for fear of being accused of bias.

      Bad day at the office for Laidlaw. Surely his captaincy must be questioned after his decision making on the welsh line effectively elimininated our backs from getting the ball. SHC is so much much quicker in thought and deed. Weak refereeing too when Welsh hoofed away the ball after being penalised. This used to be a ten yard penalty at the very least!!! Lots of daft penalties given away too just like last weekend. Got to cut these out or we wont win games!

      Why are we so terrible under the high ball? This was one of the major factors in this loss and i cant understand why this should be the case! Maitland back would help with this but when will he be fit?

      Plusses…….. Bennett, Dunbar, Cowan, J Gray, SHC, Ally Dickinson. Russells play with ball in hand (his tactical kicking needs work) was good so although i am gutted it is still a step in the right direction. The sheep will know they got lucky today even if their press and commentators wont admit it.

      • Standoffalot on

        Small margins. We need to look after the ball better though, coughed it up far too easily at crucial times. Again. I don’t think the ref helped us at all but that goes two ways, both sides could have had additional cards. Lost the back row battle today. I still can’t help but feel Barclay and Brown should at least be in the squad. We also can’t afford to be without our best strike runner (Seymour) and also Maitland. What is clear, as posted above, is Laidlaw is part of the problem. Too slow in thought and deed. If we’re clearing the decks, go the mile and start Pyrgos when fit or SHC. Italy game is perfect to do so. Martin Williams might just be the most condescending pundit on TV. Sore loss today to an average Welsh side today, that game was there for the taking.

    • FF on

      Ah, hello false dawn my old friend, nice to see you again.

      Losing that game was nothing to do with luck, we inflicted so much pain on ourselves. We came storming out the blocks but butchered a number of tries, we were taken apart at the breakdown, hopeless under the high ball, we had a useless kicking game and were tactically inept. The fact we lost by a small margin was because Wales were dire. But we missed a huge opportunity to turn over a team we haven’t beaten in 8 years and are rooted in another dogfight for 5th place. We have a long way to go before we are at the same level as our 6N rivals bar Italy. I left Murrayfield feeling very despondent, this was a massive step backwards.

      Also – the ref had an absolute stinker.

      • Allan on

        I dont see it as a step backwards. Marking time more like. Lets not forget we had some very inexperienced test players out there in Russell, J Gray, Bennett, Dunbar, Cowan, and even Hogg only has a couple of full seasons test rugby under his belt. We dont have enough leaders in the team to make the right calls at the right time but no-one starts their international career with 50 caps experience already in the bank! It will come……

        Yes, they made some silly mistakes and took the wrong decision at times. They will learn from this and i have no doubt Vern is ruthless enough to make the hard calls on dropping players who either cant perform or wont. Laidlaw is only playing because Pyrgos and Cusiter are injured. He must be looking over his shoulder after todays inept display. Gilchrist will fancy ousting R Gray once he is fit and i would quite like to see how Davie Denton goes under Vern. He might surprise us all and be our Zinzan Brooke (if only!)

      • FF on

        I more or less agree with your points – let’s call it a reality check maybe.

        Problem is we have 6 games until the World Cup, then one more 6N on Cotter’s current contract. We need to take these opportunities to beat our rivals when they perform badly but we keep letting them off the hook.

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