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.
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
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)
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.
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.