Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Wales v Scotland: Autumn Tests 2018 Match Preview pt I

The Scotland team confer during Scotland vs New Zealand in the Autumn Test at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

KO 2.45 at the Principality Stadium
Saturday 3rd November

Live on BBC1

9 months to the day since they met in the same stadium for the start of the 6 Nations, it’s Wales v Scotland again as they kick off their Autumn series with a rematch. Gregor Townsend will be hoping this gestation period produces a better performance from his troops who were well beaten in Cardiff last time out.

Following that most recent encounter the Welsh have been on the rise in the world rankings. Scotland were rated as the 5th best side on the planet immediately before the game in February – and are currently 6th. Their Celtic cousins were 7th before the Six Nations but in the meantime have risen to the giddy heights of 3rd.

Since the Five Nations expanded to Six in 2000, Scotland’s meetings with their perennial rivals outwith the confines of this tournament or the Rugby World Cup have been relatively rare:

England – never
France – 1 loss
Ireland – 2 wins, 2 losses
Italy – 6 wins
Wales – 1 loss

There have a been a couple of summer fixtures against Italy on neutral turf but the remaining matches have always been World Cup warm-ups (incidentally this will be the first RWC since 1999 that Scotland have not played against Ireland in the build-up). This will be the inaugural Autumn Test ‘friendly’ against a Six Nations’ rival.

Wales Scouting Report

  • Getting out in front
    Wales have come out the blocks quickly in their last 4 Test matches, building early leads. Warren Gatland’s side have only been behind for 20 out of 320 minutes in games against France, South Africa and Argentina (x2). As Scotland found to their cost during their last trip to Cardiff the Welsh are very good at controlling the game if they get in front early on.
  • Defensive pressure
    A major reason why Wales can defend leads so effectively is their oppressive defensive line and pressure. These Shaun Edwards directed structures are extremely well organised and tough to break down. During the summer Wales made 269 more tackles than their opponents but still maintained a 90%+ completion rate. They were very comfortable letting the opposition play in less dangerous areas of the pitch (in fact Wales only averaged 33% possession in the second halves of those most recent Tests) and trusting that they could bring enough pressure to force a turnover or at least for possession to be kicked away.
  • Openside production line
    Sam Warburton has been forced to retire. Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi and James Davies are all unavailable through injury. And yet even despite all this missing talent, the number 7 shirt will still be an area of strength for Wales with British and Irish Lion Justin Tipuric the most likely candidate to step in. Scotland will need to be very precise protecting the ball at ruck time if they don’t want to concede turnovers.

Previous results

Scotland have only won once at the Principality/Millennium Stadium this century:

L W L L    L L L    L L L L

That solitary win came 16 years ago at the end of the 2002 Six Nations with current Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend directing operations from 10. Hopefully Toony can lead his side to victory again and end an unwanted streak of losses.

Most recent meeting in Cardiff:

Wales 34 – 7 Scotland

Significant stat:
18: clean breaks by Wales which is the most conceded by Scotland in a match during the Townsend era. The Scottish defence was ripped apart at times back in February.


Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant 1: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant 2: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Let’s get this out of the way – in short, M. Raynal’s first two encounters with Scotland coincided with two of the biggest disasters in Scottish rugby this century. First up was the trauma against Tonga where even 25 penalties and 3 yellow cards against the Sea Eagles wasn’t enough to prevent the humiliating defeat that ended Andy Robinson’s tenure.

Five years later there was the embarrassment against England with over 60 points conceded at Twickenham as John Barclay and Hamish Watson struggled to get on his wavelength at the breakdown. Thank goodness for Scotland’s most recent Test match which M. Raynal also refereed, as the dark blues annihilated Argentina and proved at least that the French official wasn’t some kind of Jonah-like figure in the annals of Scottish rugby history…

Previous experience of M. Raynal at international and club level suggests he strongly favours the team that takes charge – particularly in attack – so it can be hard for a side to turn the tide of his opinion once it’s running against them.

Scotland’s previous games with M. Raynal in charge:

  • 2012 – lost to Tonga (H)
    Penalties: 37 (For 25 – 12 Against)
    Cards: Tonga 3 YCs
  • 2017 – lost to England (A)
    Penalties: 18 (For 5 – 13 Against)
    Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Fraser Brown)
  • 2018 – beat Argentina (A)
    Penalties: 18 (For 10 – 8 Against)
    Cards: none

The Teams (UPDATE 31/10)

With only home-based players available, just four players return to Scotland’s starting XV from the Summer Test win over Argentina in June. As expected, Ali Price and Adam Hastings deputise for Laidlaw and Russell while Tommy Seymour takes the leadership role in the backs from Stuart Hogg and Blair Kinghorn takes his shirt. Jamie Ritchie fills in for John Barclay at 6 while the bench is packed with young lads in form.

Wales: tbc
Replacements: tbc

Scotland: 15. Blair Kinghorn, 14. Tommy Seymour (vice captain), 13. Huw Jones, 12. Alex Dunbar, 11. Lee Jones, 10. Adam Hastings, 9. Ali Price; 1. Allan Dell, 2. Stuart McInally (captain), 3. Willem Nel, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Jamie Ritchie, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Ryan Wilson (vice captain).
Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Alex Allan, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Grant Gilchrist, 20. Matt Fagerson, 21. George Horne, 22. Pete Horne, 23. Darcy Graham.

Part II of our preview will follow tomorrow.

23 Responses

  1. Does anyone know if the team are travelling down early and doing the captain’s run at the Millennium this time after what happened in the 6N? I really hope we’ve learnt from that experience and we don’t have a repeat.

    1. Scotland for me 15 kinghorn 14 Seymour 13 how Jones 12 Dunbar 11 l Jones 10 Hastings 9 Horne 1 dell 2 brown 3 Berghan 4 toolis 5 gray 6wilson 7watson 8 farguson

      1. 2 things

        1st – Spell check is a wonderful thing and names have capitals………
        2nd – What has Brown done to earn the spot over McInally considering that McInally will probably be the captain this Saturday?

        Rest of the team looks pretty good to me

  2. I think Toonie was more to blame for the Cardiff debacle than his players – odd selections, poor preparation and a squad that was complacent after the AIs according to Huw Jones. Still I reckon he’s one of the most intelligent coaches around so think we’ll be better at next years 6N.

    Team looks strong, hope we are close going into the final quarter and Horne, Fagerson and Graham can cause some havoc. Great to see these in form young players breaking through.

    Ps can’t believe Graham is 11kg lighter than Christian Wade.

  3. Think everyone who said Darcy would not make the team because he wasn’t in the original squad and called me stupid for thinking he would make the team owe me an apology.

    1. You said he would start and that he is way ahead of L.Jones.

      So your statement was wrong.

      I wont take anything away from graham though he deserves his spot.

      As i predicted though, this would not be a dummy game for Gregor but a full blooded test match.

      As expected Gilchrist on the bench for impact with Gray/Toolis starting.

      Disappointed Brown did not start as he has been the form hooker for me, but it is neck and neck so understand Townsends incorrect thinking on this one

  4. Interesting that Seymour is vice captain. Congratulations to him on that. I guess he’s there to shout at Kinghorn and I guess he’ll need a strong voice in that stadium.

    Otherwise not too many surprises. Lots of familiar units playing together and the potential of some genuine impact off the bench.

    I think Ali Price is selected ahead of Horne to exorcise his demons from his last trip to Wales. Well it is Halloween!

  5. That’s a more than decent 23. I wonder if Gatland is waiting to see what kind of 23 Toonie’s putting out before making his own selection call. Certainly our selection suggests this fixture is being taken very seriously. Interesting to see how Nel goes. Think it’s his first Test start in Europe for a while? And anxiously interested to see how Dunbar goes – I really hope his desperate bad luck with injuries is behind him.
    Good also that Toonie has found room for new/newish up and comers in the 23.

  6. That looks like a strong team. The Edinburgh front row has shown it’s mettle in Europe. Gray and Toolis are in great form. Watson and Wilson have bags of experience and that’s the Glasgow midfield that played brilliantly against the ABs.

    The pressure is on Price and Kinghorn and to a lesser extent Hastings and Ritchie. Price needs a good game to put the 6 Nations game to bed forever and Kinghorn needs to prove he can provide Test level defence. Hastings and Ritchie are a bit greener and simply need to find ways to effect the game, I fancy them both to rise to rise to the challenge.

    Hopefully we are able to use the bench as impact subs rather than as injury replacements. Having the quality of Fraser Brown coming off the bench is something we’re just not used to with Scotland.

  7. That’s a good team, but I was little surprised that Scott wasn’t picked at 12. I think he’s had a better season than Dunbar (who I rate btw) so far.

  8. I think that’s one of the best benches we’ve had for a while considering that we’ve all the foreign players missing. My only slight concern is if Hastings get injured early in the game and Horne senior has to pull the strings. Fully expect to Wales to send some heavy traffic in Hastings direction early in the game. He’s certainly capable of taking it but Scotland and Glasgow fans will be hoping he’s bomb proof.

  9. Looking at the 23, how many of them would you swap out for the Fiji game assuming all the squad are fit and available?

    10 – Russell for Hastings
    11 – Maitland for Jones
    19 – Skinner for Gilchrist (purely to get him capped)
    22 – Hastings for Horne

    1. Fiji
      1. Dell
      2. Brown
      3. Nel
      4. Toolis
      5. Gilchrist
      6. Ritchie
      7. Watson
      8. Denton
      9. Laidlaw (C)
      10. Hastings
      11. Jones
      12. Dunbar
      13. Jones
      14. Seymour
      15. Maitland

      16. Mcinally
      17. Allan
      18. Berghan
      19. Skinner
      20. Thompson
      21. Pyrgos
      22. Russell
      23. Kinghorn

      This Game is the Banana skin.

      So lots of experience with 1-2 newbies on bench.

      Laidlaw and Pyrgos fit best for this one as you want control and game management first and foremost.

  10. Well after Mon. Reynal’s utterly abysmal, one- sided showing at Scotstoun v Saracens I don’t think we can expect much fair reffing.

    1. At least we have a better idea of what he will let teams away with. Expect all kinds of flying in to rucks!

  11. I was almost shocked at how sensible Townsend’s selections for the Wales game were. I suppose being limited to home based players meant he couldn’t throw in the likes of McGuigan or Harris without warning, but I still had my concerns we would see something like Pyrgos & P. Horne lining up as half backs.
    It has the look of a well balanced team, and is about as strong as we can expect given the circumstances. Ritchie should be helped by having Wilson & Watson alongside him, and I don’t have any fears over Hastings. He has a great temperament and can’t have a worse game than Russell had in Cardiff last. The front five looks strong, and it will need to be if we are going to get any change at the set piece. If we get enough ball (even approaching 50%) then we have enough in the backline to hurt them.

  12. Had a look at both teams now, and that’s a very strong Welsh starting XV. A little bit of opinion (very personal) as to how they match up:
    Back 3 – Wales have the edge in experience and class. Kinghorn’s pace may be the deciding factor but I have Wales pipping us here.
    Centres – Nothing really between Huw Jones and Jonathan Davies, other than experience. Similarly Dunbar and Hadley Parkes. Even-stevens.
    Half-backs – Wales have gone for an experienced pair in Anscombe and Davies, albeit Anscombe isn’t an international 10. Much as I hate the smug, self-satisfied Davies he is the better scrummie at the moment so Wales have the edge here.
    Front-row – much depends on how they perform on the day (and the ref) but I believe we should have the edge here.
    Second-row – Alun-Wyn on his day is unsurpassable (IMHO). Cory Hill is a class player too. However I think AWJ’s best days are past, and we have a good balance in Jonny and Ben. Honours even.
    Back-row – as good as I think our terriers are – on the ground and slowing ball down, I have to say that Lydiate-Tipuric-Moriarty is a formidable trio. Wales have us here unless we can starve them of ball.
    Bench – ours is by far the better bench, both from an impact point of view and coverage in case of injuries. Almost man-for-man.
    Overall with home advantage, the number of B&I Lions, and the vagaries of Reynal’s refereeing, I cannot really see past the bookies predictions (Wales are 2 to 1 on favourites).
    However, if we’re still in touch at the hour mark (within a score) the bench could make all the difference. Strength in depth here – makes a change!

    1. For what it is worth Scarletts are not having it all their own way this year so I might be tempted to put a few quid on Scotland.

      Personally , I am more interested in how Glasgow get on with Ospreys . Not happy that they are now a win plus bonus away from being ahead of Glasgow while the welsh are planning to entertain us to a humping in Cardiff. We have just given them a bit too much power IMHO.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion