Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Wales team to face Scotland

Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny gets a pass away - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

In order to devote more time to his pre-match mind games, Warren Gatland has announced the Wales team to face Scotland today.

Some big names that we knew would miss out include: Jonathan Davies, Dan Biggar, Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate, Taulupe Faletau, Rhys Webb and Rhys Priestland but you can add George North and Liam Williams to the list now too.

There’s a first start for Worcester’s Josh Adams on the wing and a Scarlets’ dominated backline means no space for either North or Alex Cuthbert. Hopefully John Barclay will have some insights there. There are Scarlets everywhere (10 of them), which to some extent goes back to Gatland’s early days when he picked the (then successful) Ospreys in bulk to give him pre-tested combinations.

The biggest worry – almost literally – will be the rumbustious Ross Moriarty who offers a strong physical presence at Number 8, something that Scotland perhaps lack. They’ve a useful front row out too which Gatland has already said will be used to target the Scottish weaknesses in that area.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets); Josh Adams (Worcester), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Steff Evans (Scarlets); Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), Gareth Davies (Scarlets); Rob Evans (Scarlets), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Cory Hill (Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys capt), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester).

Replacements: Elliot Dee (Dragons), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Bradley Davies (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Aled Davies (Scarlets), Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), Owen Watkin (Ospreys).

The Scotland team announcement is set for tomorrow.

68 Responses

  1. Aside from the props, the only place I think they will have a clear man-to-man advantage is at no.8. Even then, Moriarty is still on the comeback after injury. I also don’t rate Owens that much higher than McInally on form. If the Lions tour was this summer, then Rambo would surely have been on the plane (on the assumption that Gatland wasn’t the coach!).

    1. I don’t agree that Moriarty is better than who we could field. A lot of his kudos is based on one performance (against England). In the next round he was made to look very ordinary by our back row.

      1. If we base our analysis of players on performances against England, then we are sure-fire favourites for the wooden spoon this year!

      2. The England game was one of the games my analysis (bit generous there…) was based on. I mentioned it because it’s the only one in which he stood out.

    2. Hmmm…well besides Halfpenny and no J. Davies at 7 the Gateau seems to have picked “on form”…smart move or not? I guess we’ll find out soon enough…

    3. Moriarty’s claim to fame and subsequent selection for the Lions was based on one match.

      He’s massively overrated.

  2. If Williams was fit in place of Halfpenny that is a very exciting back 3. Patchell at 10 is interesting. No real international experience playing there but a class act for Scarlets.

    Not overly worried by their squad but they will be well up for it at the Principality. Watson & Barclay will own the breakdown.

  3. Their injuries have not just taken their toll on the starting XV, you look at that bench and you have to say that it doesn’t hold too much fear factor. What is really exciting is that we are likely to include some real talent off the bench (in the backs, at least) and so we could actually be looking at a strong finish (with the obvious disclaimer about the front row).

    1. I quite rate Tipuric as a player and Anscombe will be a better back up at fly half than what we can name but I’d agree that there bench isn’t much bar that.

      1. Tipuric is dangerous and it is a surprise to see him benched , are
        the others better ? or maybe something we do not know (like a niggle injury) however he could raise a side if they are still in it when he comes on. Once again, he needs to be in the comapny of good players to shine and hopefully , they are worn out by 60 minutes.

  4. I’m less worried than I was yesterday but it’s still going to be tough to win in Cardiff.

    I’d expect (assuming Barclay and Watson are picked) us to dominate the breakdown, and I’d also like to think our bench will make more of an impact than theirs.

    Only 4 sleeps to go!!!

  5. I’m not nearly as gung-ho as some of the previous comments. Even with injuries that looks like a good team and there are still some good players on the bench; Francis, Tipuric. Anscombe, Watkin. You could also argue that Bradley Davis is on a par with Gilchrist.

    The Scarlets players will be full of confidence and know how to play with and for each other. And with the crowd behind them…

    I also think that that back row will be very powerful and not easy to subdue. Do we not have that French ref who seems to like to ping our players for no reason at the breakdown on Saturday? That could be a problem for our back row.

    I could see this going horribly wrong for us at the weekend…

    1. Yep, Pascal Guazere will no doubt be on hand to ensure no turnovers are made with his bizarre interpretation of what constitutes a ruck. Maybe he’ll give Johnny B another incorrect yellow card. Can’t wait!

      1. He allowed no contest against England but was better against Australia. I had a feeling at the time that he felt like he ‘owed’ the English a few decisions after the Connacht vs Wasps fiasco.

        In saying that Gatland looks to have picked a pack to pick and go endlessly. We will see the full impact of the new breakdown laws on our defence for the first time here as NZ and Oz hadn’t adapted yet.

      2. I think that was Mathieu Raynal who, oddly, was fine with Glasgow competing in that manner against Leicester a few weeks prior.

  6. Whilst everybody has been talking about what their scrum could do to us I wonder if our lineout could get after theirs. I could see Toolis having a field day against AWJ. And if ours is rock solid they have to go back to kicking to our back three. Which I would take all day long.

    I do worry about Navidi though. He is often the only Cardiff player who looks up for their games.

    1. Lets hope so! Hopefully the crowd doesn’t have an influence on lineouts with noise etc. Toolis is the best lineout jumper on the field but I guess anything can happen… AWJ is class and has the experience. Ideally retain all of our ball and disrupt or steal a couple of theirs.

  7. I think they have picked a more powerful back row to try and establish a clear advantage up front. They will keep it tight as long as they need to and only let the backs go if they are well on top up front. I don’t expect the scarlet’s foot loose and fancy free approach unless they’re all over us up front. I think Navidi over Tipuric is a compliment to Hamish Watson’s threat over the ball, Navidi is much better in that area.

    I don’t care what all the spin doctors are saying, they are clear favourites to me. That said, we are due some luck against them down there and taking our counter attack opportunities will be key. If we get our heads ahead on the score board and get them to perform under pressure, I’m not sure they are up to it without their key decision makers. I’d put a wee wager on that there will be some interceptions if they have to chase the game more than they want to. Luck would help also.

  8. This team really doesn’t worry me. Powerful up front but really lacking in Breakdown specialists. Barclay and Watson will cause chaos! I would definitely go with Luke Hamilton at 8 to counter Moriarty. I just feel its a shame Matt Fagerson isn’t in the squad. He’s been incredible for Glasgow this season but its probably just to early for him.

    1. Moriarty has played one match in 4 months – why on earth are some of the posters focusing on him?

      1. How many matches had Stuart hogg played?
        Don’t understand your point. Number of games plays makes no difference, Moriarty is a class act

      2. “The number of games makes no difference” Eh? You sure about that, especially No 8s.

        “Moriarty is a class act” Based on what?

      3. Thats why i brought up Hogg, first game back after injury on Saturday and he seemed back to his best versus Exeter. I’m not saying Moriarty is Wales’ biggest threat but his ball carrying, along with Navidi, could cause problems, thats why i suggested Luke Hamilton, a similar-ish player. Plus i think Moriarty was one of Wales’ best players last year in the six nations. Good performances against England and Ireland.

      4. Hogg is a genuinely world class player.

        Moriarty is a decent pro that’s had a couple of good tests.

      5. Give the lad a break, he has an opinion however you have a well made point. The SRU policy on injury means Hogg would not be back untill 100% , however not all unions are quite as carefull. The RFU clubs tend to get them back out as soon as possible, no cushy SRU rotation policy down there.

        There is no time on the pitch when a forward is not working and you need all aspects of fitness namely strength , stamina , speed and flexibility to be fully match fit. Once he has spend a half being on the bottom of everything, it might take its toll. We will need to target RM.

        I would like to see more of Hamilton as well, he is a menace, who knows what is in the mind of GT , he is never predictable.

      6. I guess we shall see come Saturday what kind of Moriarty shows up. But if Wales can hit the gainline and get front foot ball then patchell will have more time and space to operate and thats when we’ll see the creativeness Patchell has shown for Scarlets. That is why WG has gone with big ball carriers.
        Scotland needs to counter this with Strong defense and quick line speed. Of course, GT knows this and Scotland’s defense will be well prepped. I expect an even first half with Wales to have most of P ossesion. But for Scotland to overrun them in the second and BP win

    2. Navidi is no slouch at the breakdown. He will be well up for this one with all the hype focussed on Barclay and Watson.

      Hamilton a good shout at 8 for me. Not the biggest but a powerful runner and another breakdown specialist. Far too early for Fagerson but his time will come at the RWC.

      1. I actually dont think Fagerson is that far away from being an International. I would love to see him in a Scotland Shirt later this year, either in Summer or Autumn. I can a Barclay, Watson, Fagerson back row for RWC.

      2. I think I’ve sometimes noticed that the person doing the press rounds does not start. Someone senior enough, but who has the time to be away from planning/training…

      3. Never mind Wilson doing the press rounds , get the men of the moment, the men recalled from the abyss, Reid.,Lawson and Welsh on the Job.

        Gatland should be bricking it knowing The Mighty Ducks are heading to Cardiff and they wont be leaving without the prom queen on one arm and a gallon of Bud on the other .

        Scottish Rugby depends on guys who have never been selected higher than 8th in a 7s team. (It is time to divert some of those 7’s budgets into Pies and Beer for the big lads who really count)

        Bring on the chuckle brothers with the oldest swinger in town. How can we lose :) That is the press Story on Sunday. I can see the headline now The Mighty Chucks are all guts.

  9. Could look like a Scarlets vs Warriors Pro14 semi-final. Hold our own in the scrums, we have the beating of them in the line out, breakdown & open play. If the team believes, can only see a Scotland win even with this being a Wales home game

  10. I would be looking for seymour to intercept alot of Patchells long passes, toulon interecepted 2 i think and score from both

    1. I agree, that’s why I think they will start with Warrenball 2.0, bringing Parkes and the back row down the inside/middle and kick, kick, kick. Hopefully they will kick too long and let Hoggy have a go. Our pack really needs to front up which slightly concerns me.

      1. We’ve got one of the best hookers in Europe. Four of our likely back five are at or close to world class. Our line out is fine, and our mauling both in defence and attack has improved hugely in the last year or so. If our props, starters and subs, can just give us stability at scrum time (anything more than that would be a massive bonus), then we will be fielding a pack that the Welsh should be worrying about much more than we are!
        I know we won’t be fielding exactly the same pack as we did against the All Blacks in November, but if memory serves that was a massive up front performance on that day. A repeat of anything like that on Saturday, and we could well overwhelm Wales up front – a bit like the second half against them at Murrayfield last year.
        I’m trying not to be wildly optimistic here. Just saying that Wales up front will face much more of a challenge than many Wales supporters, and Gatland maybe, think will be the case.
        Let’s not underestimate Gatland here. Much as most of us dislike his attitude towards Scotland and Scottish players, he will know he’s going to be in a major battle up front on Saturday, and will be preparing accordingly.
        C’mon Scotland!

      2. One pet hate of mine is overrating players. McInally is a good hooker and hasn’t suddenly burst onto the scene. Everyone just started losing it when he scored all those tries off mauls in the AI’s. In my opinion maul tries should be listed as team tries.He also pads the stat sheet by constantly waiting for carries. The fact that Mcinally gets all the credit for the line out and the maul tries shows how little most fans know about how the game is played!

      3. Fair comment, even among those who understand the game, it ticks me off that we focus on the visble and talk up the glory hunters. Like an iceberg , the real danger is what is underneath the surface, the machine that feeds the try’s.

        I think McInally does deserve praise (lot’s of it , so I get that ). He has raised his game to a consistent standard, he has worked hard and brings a missing spark to the front row. His line out throwing has secured our own ball, though I find we use the tail which is unpredictable , far too much .

        However , who says he is the best in Europe who can give gravitas to such subjective words.

        It is a team game and I can assure you if you play him in the Edinburgh Northern 7th’s he wont be McInally for long. It is just my , as yet , unwritten law of success, we look at our best when we are among those of a similar standard.

  11. This is what i predict Toony’s squad will be for Saturday, not necessarily what i would go for.

    1. Bhatti
    2. Mcinally
    3. Welsh
    4. J.Gray
    5. Toolis
    6. Barclay
    7. Watson
    8. Wilson
    9. Price
    10. Laidlaw
    11. Seymour
    12. Dunbar
    13. Jones
    14. Maitland
    15. Hogg
    16. Lawson
    17. Reid
    18. Rae
    19. Gilchrist
    20. Du Preez
    21. Laidlaw
    22. Horne
    23. L.Jones

    1. Did you see Mike Blair’s interview? I felt like he was intimating towards Laidlaw starting (at 9). Could be a ruse to keep the Welsh guessing i suppose.

      1. I’ve not seen it but read part of it in the Scotsman. All he really said was that he was ready to start based on how he played at the weekend. Not that he would

    2. You’ve named Laidlaw twice… Would also go for Reid over Bhatti and McGuigan over Jones or even possibly starting over maitland

    1. Just for a second there you had me considering that Russell could be injured and I missed the news.

  12. I have to say there has been a lot of chat on various forums about how the game will go on Saturday, and lots of voices suggesting all we have to do is show up on Saturday. However, the impact of home field advantage cannot be overstated.

    If this game was at Murrayfield I would suggest that we would win at a canter, but whatever your opinion of Gatland may be he is a canny and experienced International coach and the Welsh crowd will be a huge factor, especially if the roof is closed (which ironically I hope it is).

    If you offered me a 1 point win with a last minute penalty right now I would gladly take it.

    1. Yes, Frazer, think I said on here or maybe another forum earlier that I would thankfully take a one point win too.

      1. Couldn’t agree more – first game, home crowd, many Welsh fans expect to win, or even a GS (unlikely though that is). I’ll take ANY kind of win here, and we will need all the (referee’s) favours we can get!

  13. Reid and Welsh vs Lee and Evans with a lightweight Cory Hill behind them…

    If it comes down to weight then our props are heavier, our hooker is the same size, our locks will be substantially heavier, Barclay will give a way a couple kilos to Shingler, our lightest forward Watson has a stone on Navidi and Moriarty is the same size as Wilson and would be two stone lighter than Denton. The pack will steamroller them. The best players in that pack are Owens who I’d not pick over Rambo, AWJ who is old and overrated and Moriarty who must be barely fit.

    Yes we’ve a few injured props but the hysteria nut stop. Welsh and Reid are better than Lee and Evans.

    1. It has little or nothing to do with weight and everything to do with technique in the front row. For that reason if for none other Reid & Welsh start. They, with McInally ought to at least hold their own. The Wales front row bench aren’t anything to write home about, Bhatti and whoever should more than hold their own, plus add some spice to the loose.

      1. I’d have the old stagers starting to give us a solid platform then bring on the young tyros to run a tired Welsh team ragged in the last quarter of the game.

        If I were Toony I’d have Reid, McInally, Welsh, Gray, Toolis, Barclay, Watson, Wilson, Price, Russell, Seymour, Dunbar, Jones, Maitland, Hogg; Bhatti, Lawson, McCallum, Gilchrist, CdP, Laidlaw, Horne, McGuigan

      2. Frazer,

        I would HATE to second guess any Toonie team, but that’s also my guess, bench included. Maybe CdP starts Wilson on bench.

        All good for me. If the guys perform, we win, if not we lose. Simple, no excuses.

      3. Bhatti is a really exciting player, and great to see a ‘breakthrough’ in such an important area. Hopefully we’ll see a coming of age and a rampaging performance in the loose (and good enough in the scrum – always a Welsh strength).

  14. Though I have been burnt as much as all of us over the years I do think we’re in danger of falling into Eeyore territory here. We look like a stronger team across the board to me….and to most neutrals. Townsend will be spending a lot effort to build confidence within the squad. As supporters we need to do the same and leave the glorious failure days behind. We have to start believing…

    1. I think the squad themselves will be going into this one full of confidence. That in itself will be different than any game in Cardiff for 15 years +. There’s been times when they’ll have believed they had a good chance, but believing that you will win is a different thing all together.

  15. I think if we ride out the first 20 minutes Wales will crumble.

    A few set piece back moves also early on might reward us well against a brand new welsh backline.

    Also important is when we get ahead is not to take our foot of the gas until we are well clear, dont give them any option to get back into the game.

    I expect Mcinally to get 1/2 tries from driving mauls also. seems a special for this squad.

  16. Southern hemisphere man Hadleigh Parkes starts for Wales, and relation to fellow southern hemisphere man Dan Parks I wonder. Speaking of whom, I just watched the 2010 match in Dublin for inspiration, Dan kicked like a dream including the late penalty from the touch line.
    There’s some speculation that Laidlaw will start, that would disappoint me. I’d also like to see Denton at 8, the really big boy to combat the big Welsh back row. Denton is about 19st with barely an ounce of fat on him.We have enough skill and pace elsewhere in the pack. I guess Wilson will get the nod though.

    1. DD for 60 minute impact…club player of the month for WW in Dec. Hopefully has peaked at the right time. We need to run and run and run this Welsh pack all over the field. I am not convinced by their bench…

      1. I visited WW on Saturday for the Exeter match (Low was playing for Exeter – couldn’t help think that we might see him before end of 6N depending upon injuries).

        DD scored a try (fell over from 1m out), and played most of the match. Was generally very useful, and seemed in good shape. I wondered whether he was conserving energy for the 6N at times but I think that’s the impression he gives.

        However, having seen the announcement, in CdP we trust!

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