KO 2.15 at The Principality Stadium
Saturday 14th March 2020
Live on BBC1
It’s certainly no-one’s favourite stat but when considering the scale of the task facing Scotland the sheer paucity of away wins against the old Five Nations’ sides demonstrates just what the dark blues are up against.
Scotland’s last away win against the other members of the Five Nations:
- England – 1983 (0 away wins in the professional era)
- France – 1999 (1 away win in the professional era)
- Ireland – 2010 (3 away wins in the professional era)
- Wales – 2002 (2 away wins in the professional era)
Wales may be on their worst Six Nations’ losing streak since 2007 but this is still a massive test of how far Scotland have progressed in recent years. Gregor Townsend’s side should travel with confidence but they need to bring the aggression of the performance against Ireland allied to another step up in the clinical nature shown in the game versus France.
Wales Scouting Report
Centre of Attention
The Welsh midfield saw plenty of action against England last Saturday. Between them Hadleigh Parkes and Nick Tompkins had a combined 64 touches of the ball. By comparison, in the reverse fixture in last season’s tournament, Parkes and Jonathan Davies were on the ball just 25 times.
Tompkins in particular has managed to get himself an incredibly high involvement rate in attack. After a bit of a sticky start away to Ireland he had 36 touches v France (4 kicks, 12 passes, 21 carries) and another 36 v England (1 kick, 20 passes, 15 carries). The Saracens’ centre pops up everywhere, frequently getting involved in moves 2 or 3 times. With 6 clean breaks and 16 defenders beaten in his last two outings there’s no question he’s a key danger man in the Welsh offence.
Defensively, Scotland did a relatively good job of containing Virimi Vakatawa in the 13 channel during round 4 of the tournament. This will be a different challenge though with the quick feet of Tompkins able to propel him through the smallest of gaps.
There’s also a feeling that, while they won’t have anyone putting up similar stellar numbers, Scotland will want more attacking production to put pressure on Tompkins on the other side of the ball. As things stand the Wales’ 13 had more touches in 80 minutes against England than Scotland’s starting outside centres have managed in 258 minutes across four Six Nations’ games (36 v 26).
6 of Wales 12 tries in this season’s Six Nations have been scored in the last 6 minutes of their games. There are a few factors at play, including the possibility that their opponents in the last 3 rounds have failed to maintain their intensity after building up decent leads.
More than that though the Welsh retain some very Gatland-era qualities, including fitness levels that carry them right to the end of the game and a sort of sheer bloody-mindedness not to give up on even a seemingly lost cause.
No matter what position Scotland find themselves in on Saturday they cannot afford to take Wales lightly. If they are fortunate enough to get in front (and bear in mind in the last 10 years the Scots have lead for just 22 minutes out of 400 down in Cardiff) then they need to keep pushing home their advantage and not allow their hosts to find a way back into the game.
- Wales have made 45 bad passes – the most in the tournament (Scotland – 24). They’re still adapting to the more attacking style brought in by coach Wayne Pivac.
- It’s a style that leads to opportunities though with 22 line breaks – again the most in the Six Nations (Scotland – 17).
- One area where the dark blues may have an advantage is winning the ball back. Wales have just 10 turnovers won so far whereas Scotland, lead by Watson and Ritchie, have a championship high 22.
This will be the 11th time the two sides have met in Cardiff for a Six Nations’ match. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:
L W L L L L L L L L
Most recent Six Nations meeting at the Principality Stadium:
Wales 34 – 7 Scotland
18 – the number of clean breaks made by Wales (the only time Scotland have given up more in the Toony era was in the madness at Twickenham in 2019). In Gregor Townsend’s first Six Nations’ match in charge, Scotland struggled to adapt and were opened up by a Welsh side more famed for their defensive prowess. This time round the Scots head down with an improving defensive record. That will be stretched by Wales’ own changes in attack though…
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referee 1: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referee 2: Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
It’s a pretty rare day for Scotland to match with a ref for the first time – particularly in a Six Nations game. In recent years, Luke Pearce is the only man in the middle to make his Scotland debut during the Northern Hemisphere’s premier tournament.
The most surprising thing is that it’s taken this long with Mr Gardner being a regular on the international scene for a number of years now. Scotland can’t even call on a huge amount of recent experience with Australian officials. Two matches with Nic Berry as referee (Samoa in 2017 and France in 2019 – both ‘friendlies’) are the only times they’ve had an Ozzie whistler in the last 5 years.
For the final game of the tournament, Townsend has again named an unchanged backline, with the changes all in the pack but Skinner aside they are all moves we have seen before. Sam Skinner swaps directly for Scott Cummings, and Stuart McInally once again swaps with Fraser Brown perhaps in light of the short turnaround as there has been little to separate the two so far.
In the back row, another change we’ve seen before: Magnus Bradbury starts and Matt Fagerson comes on to the bench. Nick Haining drops out of the 23 altogether through illness.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Nick Tompkins, Hadleigh Parkes, Liam Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, WillGriff John, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi.
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Taulupe Faletau, Gareth Davies, Jarrod Evans, Johnny McNicholl.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt), Blair Kinghorn, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Willem Nel, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Duncan Weir, Kyle Steyn.