Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Wales v Scotland: Six Nations 2020, Match Preview pt II (redux)

Wales vs Scotland

There are just 5 Welshmen and 8 Scots in the respective XVs who were also named to start the postponed fixture back in March. Among the 17 changes the person to feel most sorry for is WillGriff John who was in line to make his test debut at the age of 27 but missed his chance due to the call-off and isn’t in the Welsh squad this Autumn.

Tale of the tape

Tries   48
   Average weight   92kg
Total caps   215
6N caps   106
Average age   26.7

   Pack weight   901kg
Tries   16
Total caps   216
6N caps   98
Average age   27.3

Tries   15
140   Total caps   121
6N caps   61
Average age   28.0

4 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Georgia)

  • 4/5 – Gray for Toolis [+]
  • 8 – Thomson for M. Fagerson [=]
  • 10 – Russell for Hastings [+]
  • 15/11 – Hogg for van der Merwe [+]


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 (c)
Shane Lewis-Hughes
Justin Tipuric
Taulupe Faletau

Sam Parry
Wyn Jones
Dillon Lewis
Cory Hill
James Davies
Lloyd Williams
Rhys Patchell
Nick Tompkins

ADV Scotland
ADV Wales
ADV Wales
ADV Wales
ADV Scotland

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Wales
ADV Scotland
ADV Wales

ADV Scotland
ADV Wales
ADV Wales
ADV Wales
ADV Wales

Stuart Hogg (c)
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

Stuart McInally
Oli Kebble
Simon Berghan
Ben Toolis
Cornell Du Preez
Scott Steele
Adam Hastings
Duhan van der Merwe


Backs – advantage Wales

The back 3s and half backs should be reasonably familiar with each other. The potential for intrigue and a bit of the unknown might come with the partnerships in midfield. Wales boast the vastly experienced and uber-talented Jonathan Davies but this will be just the 3rd time he has been paired up with Owen Watkin.

On the Scottish side, the James Lang / Chris Harris combination is also lining up for their 3rd start together. The forecast weather may well favour a forward-oriented game but how the respective midfields contribute in attack and, possibly more significantly, in defence could be influential on the outcome of the game. In theory, the primary focus for the Scottish duo has to be a more destructive role, just looking to negate their more celebrated opponents.

Forwards – advantage Scotland

It does feel somewhat unusual to place Scotland’s area of strength in the pack but Gregor Townsend is in the fortunate position of having his top choices from 1-7 fit and available. Number 8 is the one role that has lacked a player to really nail down the shirt with 7 different players having filled in, to a greater or lesser extent, during the last 14 months.

By contrast, the Welsh are missing a few bodies, including multiple back rows. There are opportunities there for some talented younger players to show their worth – but Test rugby can be an unforgiving arena. Many Scottish dreams of breaking their Welsh hoodoo have foundered on being out-muscled by aggressive home packs. If this is to be the year then it must be the Scots’ turn to dictate the game up front.

Subs – advantage Wales

Wales have a bit of an edge in terms of Test match experience but across the board, there isn’t a huge amount between most of the subs on the two sides. The backup stand offs have the ability to be game-changers but it’s entirely possible that Rhys Patchell and Adam Hastings may find themselves only being used in extremis.


Stuart Hogg makes his 76th start for the national side, easing him past the tally of head coach Gregor Townsend and placing Hoggy 5th all-time for Scotland in this stat with Chris Paterson (96); Sean Lamont (93); Ross Ford (88); and Scott Murray (84) the players remaining ahead of him.

– Scotland have previously played Six/Five Nations matches against Wales in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport but this is a first ever outing for this fixture in Llanelli.

– Scotland are going for their 3rd consecutive victory in the Six Nations. Since the tournament expanded 20 years ago, Scotland’s longest winning streak is 2 matches in a row.

– With the 2023 World Cup in mind, Wales have 11 players aged 29 or older in their lineup (9 starters and 2 subs) who might be considered unlikely to make it to France in 3 years’ time. Scotland have 7 in the 29+ bracket (4 starters and 3 subs).

– 8 Scotland players will have started every game in the 2020 Six Nations – Stuart Hogg, Blair Kinghorn and Ali Price in the backs; Rory Sutherland, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson in the forwards.

49 Responses

  1. Interesting that the Wales pack is heavier and older than the Scottish one. If we believe in our fitness then doing everything we can to move them around the park has to be the way.

    On the backs its changed days from a few years ago with none of the starters higher than 9 from Glasgow.

  2. 8 is still puzzling for me. Thomson was effectively third choice before the Georgia game and now he’s thrown straight into the starting line up. Is it because Du Preez had his mare debut in Wales and Toonie doesn’t quite trust him in such a big game? Or maybe Thomson got the nod as he might be more comfortable playing at his club’s home stadium and perhaps more reliable under the high ball after re-starts in the wet conditions.

  3. Disagree about Hastings only coming on in extremis – fairly sure we will see him at about 60 minutes but replacing Lang and Russell moving to 12 (injuries before this not withstanding).

    1. why would you move Russell to 12? Hastings would need to go to 12 if he replaces Lang. No way would you be moving one of the best 10’s in the world out of position for an average 10 just to get him on the park.

      1. The fact that this is what they have done every time both of them have played together and Townsend’s comments this week specifically mention Finn being great at 10 or 12….

        Not saying I agree with it, but it’s very likely this is what they will do.

        Maybe the thinking is it will throw off the defence shifting the point of attacking threat out one.

      2. Hastings went to 12 against Georgia last week. The first 2 times they tried it was Finn at 12, but hes far too good a distributor to waste at 12, and his running game is better suited to 12 than finns imo

  4. Both coaches seem to have went for their better defensive players across the park, recognising the likely conditions (looks like at game time, rain likely to stop but blowing a gale!) Also seems to be the case in the backs where they both think pragmatism will outway risk (which you can understand with Toonie needing to break his duck down in Wales & Pivac desperate for any sort of a win!)

    Both teams have introduced more kickers & those better under the high ball. Probably suits Wales slightly more than us but it at least shows our improving squad depth that we can now match up in these conditions.

    Wales have added ballast to their pack but I do question whether Elias, Rowlands & Lewis-Hughes are international class. Equity in the scrum would suit me.

    We have a real quality line-out now from which, if in the red zone, we look like scoring. Advantage us.

    Wales normal point of strength is in the breakdown but they are missing their better players here. Shown up massively vs France last week. We are strong in this area. Advantage us.

    Forward mobility. Again advantage us.

    Threats in the back line, IMO advantage us.

    Confidence, advantage us.

    No crowd, loss of advantage to Wales.

    Wales not playing at the Principality, again loss of advantage to Wales.

    Experience, advantage Wales.

    Despite the weather conditions, can see us sneaking this one & setting us up nicely for the Autumn series.

    1. Wales defence has declined markedly since the loss of Edwards. Whilst I agree the game will be won or lost up front and how teams manage challenging conditions, there are opportunities there if we keep possession, build up phases and get Russell pulling the strings.

      I think even if he wanted to Russell couldn’t resist probing for those opportunities.

      I think Wales are favourites but this is a game we need to win to take a step forward.

    2. Last thing we should do is not try to play any rugby because of the conditions and I really hope this doesn’t happen.
      Good teams can still play when it’s tipping down and we have seen how badly we do when we constantly kick and give away possession, never going to be a good tactic.

  5. I’m pretty sure Gatland will be in attendance tomorrow and so it’s a great opportunity for our lads to deliver the goods away from home and against his old team. He was at the Champions cup final in Paris and so he’ll either be at this game or at France v Ireland. I imagine he’ll be in Wales given there are two home nations featuring and his ties to Wales.

  6. Sorry, chaps, but we won’t win this. It reminds me too much of the build up to Cardiff 2018. Interesting that our starting XV has a better try/cap ratio. I still fail to see in what facet of the game Jones betters Gray. He’s not a better carrier, he’s not got better handling, he’s not better at the ruck or breakdown, he’s not better at the lineout or scrum, he’s not more physically dominant or athletic. The only area I can see is reputation…

    1. sadly AWJ
      is a better carrier
      has better handling
      is better at the ruck
      is better at the maul
      is better at the lineout
      is more physical
      is more athletic

      most importantly
      is a better leader.

      but the gap is closing.

      1. AWJ has met that stage of his career Giggs and Scholes reached where everything he does is met with hyperbolic trash because of his age and legacy – he’s not been a top 5 6 Nations lock for a while. He turns up about 3 games a year

      2. When one compares their statistics, they don’t match the position presented by Sam Laycock. Have a look on the 6Ns site – there’s loads of interesting stats on there,

      3. whatever the stats are all they are likely to show is that Jonny Gray has only played about one and a half games so far this 6N so the sample size is far to small to draw any conclusions.

        On the other hand a career of serial winning at international level for AWJ would say otherwise.

    2. You may be right but, we may not but why ? is there a common denominator – or dominator.

      Personally I just want a good game , a win would be great , but I suspect we may see a lot of close calls and heavy manipulation of the ref by the savvy welsh. No offence , in fact a half compliment to Hogg, but he is not manipulative. However putting up and shutting up is more powerful than a moan. We should not get wound up by their cunning gamesmanship.

  7. Worlds best 10s

    1. Handre Pollard
    2. Richie Mo’unga
    3. Beauden Barrett
    4. Owen Farrell
    5. Jonny Sexton (just)
    6. Finn Russell
    7. Foley
    8. Biggar

    1. Even if this were on topic, it’s still wrong… Farrell’s too high, Sexton hasn’t played a decent game in two years, Foley can’t get an international game and Biggar is too low.

    2. I wouldn’t even have Farrell in the top 8. One of the most overrated fly halves in world rugby. Wasps’ Umaga is miles better. Picking him to start for Lions next year will guarantee a series defeat.

    3. Mo’unga has done nothing to suggest he should be in that list except play for the ABs. V good player but one of the best in the world? I don’t think so.

      Barrett is head and shoulders above him but the ABs want a different style FH. Not convinced they are a better team for the really.

  8. Kinghorn starts…..I just don’t see his qualities. Can someone enlighten me ? I always just see him running straight into opposition or butchering passes.

    1. Gradually bring in a new player in Duhan who will still be learning systems & positioning for Scotland, Wet conditions will mean a focus on kicking (Adv Kinghorn). High ball (both are average, but kinghorn has a slight edge here)
      Wet slippery conditions will negate a good chunk of Duhans running game.

      Townsend wants solidity and consistency in defence for the last game of the six nations in what should be poor conditions. Kinghorn is a better wing that fullback for me anyway.

      1. And we get the new boy straining at the leash to run at the welsh last 30 mins , that would have been worth the entry money !

  9. Weather (according to BBC) dry & windy, with a wet 24hours preceding the game.

    DVM is better than Kinghorn whatever the conditions.

    1. Based on what? When has he even been tested under a high ball in poor conditions at a international level or had to kick return? When does he kick? Ever? He’s good Duhan but he’s a bit to go, without a kick game Wales are taking yards off Scotland every time they get the ball to him if he starts – kick to him, hold – push up, tackle – Ulster unlocked him and exposed him quick, Wales would do it from minute one.

      He’s still quite raw at the top level running in try’s when good players are playing 6 Nations isn’t playing 6 Nations it’s a big step

  10. I think the head to head are a bit generous to us. particularly under valuing Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Gareth Davies. While Russell is better than biggar at many things, Biggar is good at two;
    1. whinging endlessly at the referee.
    2. claiming a high ball.
    (in that order.)

    objectively I think this game is a big ask.

    1. Definitely a big ask, but also a big opportunity. For us to progress we simply have to start winning these games, even though Wales clearly start as firm favourites.

      Don’t think we’re likely to play an away test against any of our big 6N rivals in much better circumstances than Saturday – no crowd, struggling to adapt to a new coaching regimes, a number of test debuts, slightly iffy form of a couple of key players, we are more or less fully fit. Big question is which team has emerged from lockdown in better shape as we’ve probably lost momentum we generated against Italy and France.

    2. Biggar is good at claiming a high ball and puts himself in harms way to get a man sent off. But he is very good in the air.

  11. Very finally balanced game which I think could go either way.

    Welsh pack is big but I’ve not seen many better looking Scottish packs than tomorrows in recent years and I think we can match them.

    Centre partnership looks good in my eyes, both are huge in defence, will hit rucks like extra forwards and work hard all day long and in addition Lang has a huge boot. No other combination we can put out offers that skillset. I find the constant ignorance around both Harris’ ability and performances absolutely baffling. He’s the absolute linchpin of our improved defence and fills the role Dunbar used to in that regard. He’s hardly terrible in attack either but people just keep knocking him constantly but then I suppose he didn’t shine when stuck on the wing or at inside centre early on and he just isn’t Huw Jones, you know the guy who Nick Grigg keeps out of Glasgow’s 13 shirt but is actually secretly world class.

  12. In the nicest possible way, a lot of comments that are pretty typical of the kind of quasi-educated, second-tier thinking, dangerous bull that means we have Lang and Harris in the centres and are not starting DVDM. If you have any feel for sports, after 5 minutes you know who the best players on the team are. End of. And yet give people a whiff of management double think, coaching-training, or let them get too close to players, and suddenly they think they see things lucidly. Off. DVDM was made for this level and we should not be playing this centre partnership, a ten year old child could point that out. On Harris look at the evidence – he was a flop before the World Cup, in the World Cup and Gloucester’s season tanked since his arrival! He has NEVER had a performance and was lucky to be in the last two tournaments. Being carried in a victory over 14-man France hardly suggests otherwise.

    1. Any success at Gloucester is all Cipriani made. They have great wings in Ollie Thorney, and Jonny May. Heinz at Scrum half and Harris gets in ahead of Billy Twelvetrees who is really long in the tooth but a Gloucester stalwart. He is a decent club player but not a standout. He is getting great exposure but is surrounded by excellent players.

      1. That Welsh guy has some gas too. Trinder the other fan favourite in the centres.

        But LOOK here since the WC we MUST have a defensive edge in the centres! It’s critical because that attacking partnership involving JONES or HUTCHINSON failed. I mean we lost to Japan right. Oh Harris started that game you say? Sure, but we lost to Ireland too? Ah, yeah that was Johnson and Taylor.

        It’s like a Coyote trying a different plan when the first one wasn’t ever given a chance.

    2. The irony of saying others are uneducated but to them try and blame the failing at Gloucester on one player despite them loosing an entire coaching team, nothing to do with that though when trying to cling to your own view like a comfort blanket…

      1. Cry cry. It is a counterpoint to those saying he is a Premiership defensive lynchpin when the evidence is not there at Newcastle or Gloucester. I didn’t say he caused Gloucester’s demise, just that his arrival coincided with it. Draw you own conclusions, but reject the received Toonie wisdom and use your eyes based on how he plays in Scotland shirt compared to other 13s (if that is what you watch).

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