With Matt Fagerson the only player not involved last weekend, this selection shows the fewest changes to to the personnel within a 23 of any matchday squad in the Townsend era. Will this consistency allow the side to flourish?
Tale of the tape
88 Tries 56
93kg Average weight 95kg
396 Total caps 228
179 6N caps 112
29.6 Average age 27.0
894kg Pack weight 899kg
28 Tries 17
410 Total caps 186
180 6N caps 83
29.6 Average age 26.6
22 Tries 16
171 Total caps 180
75 6N caps 73
26.4 Average age 27.1
3 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v France)
- 2 – McInally for Brown [=]
- 4 – Skinner for Cummings [=]
- 8 – Bradbury for Haining [=]
Alun Wyn Jones (c)
Stuart Hogg (c)
Backs – advantage Wales
After facing the youngest backline in the tournament last week, Scotland now find themselves up against the oldest. Nick Tompkins apart, there’s a decent chance none of the rest of the Welsh backs will be around for the World Cup in 2023. That’s an issue for the future though – right now the dark blues have to find a way to come out on top against a group packed with experience and who have pretty much seen and done it all.
This won’t be an easy assignment. Wales are the only team in the championship to run for over 3,000m. That’s in part because they’ve thrown more passes and offloads than anyone else and keep changing the point of attack. With a line lead by Chris Harris, Scotland may well continue to focus their defensive work around blocking off options and frustrating the Welsh backline.
Forwards – advantage Scotland
The numbers put the Welsh lineout as the best in the tournament (91.4% success rate on their own throw – compared to 76.8% for Scotland). Their scrum only lags behind the French when it comes to offences committed though (9 in all, with 9 going in their favour whereas Scotland have conceded 5 but won 11 penalties or free kicks from their setpiece).
Scottish packs have frequently found themselves outmuscled and outmanoeuvred in Cardiff. The breakdown is one of the areas where there needs to be more precision this week if that’s to be avoided. So far in the Championship Scotland have lost more ruck ball than anyone (22 in all, 6% of their rucks). Adding Stuart McInally and Sam Skinner to the mix may be partly an attempt to add more energy to provide protection at attacking breakdowns.
Subs – even
Rhys Webb and Taulupe Faletau were both able to contribute to upping the tempo for Wales in their game at Twickenham. While it was ultimately too little too late it’s the kind of impact both coaches will be looking for from their subs. There’s no question George Horne is the most likely candidate to speed things up for Scotland but don’t discount the energy and athleticism available to freshen up the dark blues’ pack from the likes of Scott Cummings and Matt Fagerson.
– Matchday squad splits by club:
- Wales – Scarlets 8; Exiles 7; Dragons 3; Ospreys 3, Cardiff Blues 2.
- Scotland – Edinburgh 9; Glasgow 8; Exiles 6.
– Sam Skinner is the first forward from outwith Edinburgh and Glasgow to start a match for Scotland in this Six Nations. Prior to the first four rounds of this tournament, there had been at least one Exiles’ forward in 30 of 31 match XVs during the Townsend era.
– At the start of the 2023 World Cup cycle, Wales have 12 players aged 29 or older in their lineup (9 starters and 3 subs) who might be considered unlikely to make it to France in just under 4 years’ time. Scotland have 6 in the 29+ bracket (4 starters and 2 subs).
– Scotland have made a single change to their backline in this season’s Six Nations (Chris Harris replacing Huw Jones at outside centre between Rounds 2 and 3). That compares to 10 changes in the backs during the 2019 tournament and 6 in 2018.
– The Scottish coaching setup has a very Welsh-centric feel to it. Defence coach – Welsh. Forwards coach – Welsh. Lead performance analyst – Welsh. If (and it’s a big if) Scotland can finally come away with a long-awaited win in Cardiff there could be some awkward conversations if these guys visit friends and family over the weekend!
UPDATE: It was announced today that this game has now been postponed in light of similar Coronavirus precautions taken around the country.