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
80 Tries 48
92kg Average weight 92kg
420 Total caps 215
177 6N caps 106
29.3 Average age 26.7
923kg Pack weight 901kg
27 Tries 16
365 Total caps 216
157 6N caps 98
28.2 Average age 27.3
11 Tries 15
140 Total caps 121
43 6N caps 61
28.2 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 [+]
Alun Wyn Jones (c)
Stuart Hogg (c)
Cornell Du Preez
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.