KO 4.45 at BT Murrayfield
Saturday 13th February 2021
Live on BBC1
It’s vanishingly rare for Scotland to start a Six Nations’ tournament with a win. It’s completely unheard of for the dark blues to open with back to back victories in Rounds 1 and 2. That’s what is at stake for the Scots on Saturday – the opportunity to go into the first rest weekend of 2021 still in contention for the title for arguably the first time since the championship expanded to include Italy.
Previous Round 2 results after Round 1 victories in the Six Nations for Scotland:
- 2006 – lost 28-18 to Wales (A)
- 2017 – lost 22-16 to France (A)
- 2019 – lost 22-13 to Ireland (H)
Scotland are also looking for their 5th consecutive win in the tournament after previously dispatching Italy (A), France (H), Wales (A) and then England (A) last week. That streak has never been achieved by the dark blues in the Six Nations and you have to go back to the Grand Slam winning side of 1984 for a Scottish team that managed to win 5 in a row in the Five Nations.
Wales Scouting Report
Are You Experienced?
The Welsh matchday 23 for their opening Six Nations’ fixture against Ireland boasted 1,040 caps (by contrast Scotland had 589 in their lineup versus England). There are new faces emerging for Wales but the core of the side definitely runs towards veteran status.
Among the pack the only player who won’t be at least 31 by the time the next World Cup finishes is Adam Beard. Five of the backline are in the same boat. Alun Wyn Jones will be 38 and Ken Owens 36. Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny will all be 34.
This is a side built for right now. Wales are looking for results any way they can get them to provide some foundations for Wayne Pivac to build on. The 23 is packed with players who have seen and done it all before. While many of them may not be at the highest peaks they’ve scaled in the past they will scrap with everything they’ve got to avoid the rare indignity of back-to-back defeats against Scotland.
Wales’ lost lineouts during the Autumn:
- 2 v France
- 3 v Scotland
- 4 v Ireland
- 4 v Georgia
- 4 v England
- 1 v Italy
Even with first choice hooker, Ken Owens, restored to the lineup for last weekend’s game against Ireland, the Welsh still lost another 4 lineouts. It doesn’t seem to have mattered who the personnel are in terms of throwers, jumpers and lifters, the Welsh setpiece has put them under pressure in game after game.
Scotland need another lineout performance like last week versus England – perfect on their own throw and hugely threatening on opposition ball.
Even in the absence from the wings of Josh Adams (omitted for breaching the squad’s Covid guidelines) and George North (pressed into service in the centres) Wales will be able to call on the services of a couple of extravagantly talented wide men. Liam Williams is spiky, abrasive and will fight for every yard. Louis Rees-Zammit is all pace and deceptive strength.
There’s certainly plenty there to test the Scottish defence. The issue for Wales is how much and what quality of ball will the wingers get? Against Ireland the Welsh numbers 11 and 14 managed just 5 carries in a combined 145 minutes on the pitch. Rees-Zammit’s try aside they barely touched the ball in dangerous areas of the field.
With talent like that on the flanks, Scotland will need to focus on cutting off their supply lines at source – as well as ensuring no loose kicking to bring either winger into the game.
- Since edging out France to make it to the RWC semi-final 16 months ago, Wales have won just 4 of their 14 matches. Until last week’s victory against 14-man Ireland the only Welsh wins in that run had come against Georgia and Italy (twice).
- The Welsh scrum has creaked of late. Last time these two sides met Wales conceded 3 scrum penalties. They followed this up with 4 against both Ireland and England during the Autumn Nations Cup.
- The visitors have been living off scraps in their matches against other teams in the world’s top 10. They’ve averaged just 40% possession in their last 5 games versus England, France, Ireland and Scotland.
- Even when they’ve been struggling, Welsh defensive tenacity has kept them in games. Since they played Scotland in October, Wales have managed tackle completion of 90%+ in each of their five games.
This will be the 11th time the two sides have met in Edinburgh for a Six Nations’ match. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:
D W L W L L L L W L
Most recent meeting at Murrayfield:
Scotland 11 – 18 Wales
75% possession for Scotland in the second 40 minutes. Much of this was in the Welsh half of the field as well, with possession heavily in the home side’s favour (78%). There were more than enough opportunities to overturn the 6-15 half-time deficit but, apart from Darcy Graham’s try, the Scots foundered on a tenacious Welsh defensive effort (allied to the dark blues’ own profligacy).
Wales showed again against Ireland that even when playing much of the game without the ball they are a tough prospect to break down. Scotland will need to work incredibly hard to carve out scores – especially considering they have only managed 10 tries in their last 10 games against the Welsh.
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referee 1: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referee 2: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Karl Dickson (England)
It feels like there is still work to do for Scotland to get on the right wavelength with Mr Carley. In their last encounter with the English whistler, away to Ireland, the Scots lost out to their hosts around the breakdown in particular. Good communication is essential and with no Fraser Brown or Stuart McInally and, reportedly, no Jamie Ritchie allied to Stuart Hogg being in the backfield it’s probably down to Ali Price to take on a lot of the responsibility in this area.
Ultimately though, last weekend’s performance has shown that dominance up front and relentless pressure will nearly always lead to a penalty count that only runs one way. So much is in Scotland’s own hands as they head into the first of three home games in this season’s Six Nations.
Scotland’s previous games with Mr Carley in charge:
- 2016 – beat Georgia (H)
Penalties: 21 (For 9 – 12 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Moray Low); Georgia 1 YC
- 2017 – lost to New Zealand (H)
Penalties: 28 (For 15 – 13 Against)
Cards: New Zealand 2 YCs
- 2020 – lost to Ireland (A)
Penalties: 25 (For 10 – 15 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Duncan Taylor)
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Friday after the team announcement on Thursday.