KO 2.15 at Parc y Scarlets
Saturday 31st October 2020
Live on BBC1
The outbreak starts. Wales v Scotland on 14th March 2020 is scrapped.
28 days + 28 weeks* later…
This time last year Wales were in a World Cup semi-final. Meanwhile, Scotland were already back home after a chastening defeat to Japan saw them leave the tournament in the group stages. What a difference a year could make though…
Defeat for Wales on Saturday would see them finish with a 1 win and 4 losses record which would be their worst showing in a Six Nations since 2007, when only a 27-18 victory against England in the final round saved them from a whitewash.
Triumph for Scotland would take them to 3 wins in the Six Nations for the third time in the last 4 seasons, having only achieved that feat once before (in 2005). While it might not seem like much to fans of sides who have managed Grand Slams and championships, long-suffering Scottish supporters would surely recognise more small steps in the right direction.
Wales Scouting Report
The Match Preview and Scouting Report ahead of the original fixture in March are here. Seven months may have passed but given the lack of rugby played most of the original points should still be relevant. Last week’s game against France proved that Nick Tompkins still gets his hands on the ball an awful lot (and distributed almost as much as his stand off – which doesn’t quite chime with Eddie Jones’ recently espoused “running back” thesis when it comes to centres).
The game against France didn’t go too well if the Welsh were looking to hang in and take advantage of their superior fitness though, and it was the French who stretched away in the final quarter of the game. The fractured nature of the coronavirus affected calendar hasn’t made for perfect preparation for either side – but Scotland for one will be delighted if the Welsh aren’t conditioned to bring their usual relentless, disruptive linespeed to proceedings.
The Case for the Defence
Wales nilled Italy in their first game of the post-Sean Edwards’ era but since then they’ve conceded 4 tries to Ireland; 3 to France; 3 to England; and then another 5 to France last week. Without their defensive maestro in the coaching box has there been a drop in intensity?
Scottish fans, coaches and players will certainly hope so. Stifling defence has been the order of the day on previous visits to Wales with the dark blues only notching 1, 1, 2, 0, 1, 2 and 0 tries on their trips to the Principality Stadium in the Edwards and Gatland era. Different venue. Different coaches. Hopefully a different outcome for Scotland.
Miscellaneous stats from Wales’ last game
- Wales kicked the ball 32 times against France – the third game in a row they’ve kicked the ball 30+ times. That comes from across the backline with good variety but it does require an exceptionally disciplined chase to avoid presenting opportunities to the opposition.
- 86% tackle completion. Very un-Welsh like numbers in this area. The French pack were mobile and aggressive. The French backs were elusive and unstructured. Can Scotland do something similar?
- 4 penalties conceded. Remarkable discipline and very possibly this, allied to France coughing up 16 penalties, is what kept Wales in the match until the last quarter, despite being outplayed in almost every area.
This will be the 11th time the two sides have met in Wales 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 in Wales:
Wales 34 – 7 Scotland
Do not watch the ‘highlights’ above – honestly, don’t do it to yourself. The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referee 1: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referee 2: Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)
Mr Brace should feel right at home, having been born down the road in Cardiff. As an Irish ref, who played international rugby for Belgium he certainly demonstrates the maxim that nationality is not a fixed concept in the modern world!
Mr Brace only has a solitary game refereeing Scotland behind him (against Fiji in 2018) but should be a familiar face to Glasgow and Edinburgh players after 5 years officiating in the PRO14. Recent seasons have seen Mr Brace undergo something of a conversion. In his early days, he was keen to whip the cards out but in the most recent completed campaign, he had become the official least likely to dish out yellows or reds in the league. Scotland have a poor record around sin bins and sending offs in Wales so here’s hoping the Irish whistler is feeling tolerant on Saturday.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Shane Lewis-Hughes, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Sam Parry, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Cory Hill, James Davies, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Patchell, Nick Tompkins.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt), Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, James Lang, Blair Kinghorn, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Blade Thomson.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Oli Kebble, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Cornell du Preez, Scott Steele, Adam Hastings, Duhan van der Merwe.
* plus, rather inconveniently for fans of zombie movie references, another 7 days