6 Nations 2021: Scotland v Wales Match Preview pt I

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.

Lineout Misfires

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.

Danger Men

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.

Miscellaneous

  • 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.

Previous results

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:

W L W L L L L W L

Most recent meeting at Murrayfield:

Scotland 11 – 18 Wales

Significant stat
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.

Officials

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.

Tags:

When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

20 comments on “6 Nations 2021: Scotland v Wales Match Preview pt I

  1. Tam tm on

    If it’s true surely a late call as he’s been doing media work in the last 24 hours which generally means a player is in the match day squad. If it is true Graham to start with Watson and Fagerson. Who benches?

    Reply
    • FF on

      Yeah just rumours being talked about on FB and forums, maybe rubbish, I guess we’ll find out shortly.

      Ritchie is valuable as he’s hard as nails and is a good line out jumper. Presumably Thompson is close behind him in selection, although Alex Craig seems to have been talked about as an back row as well as lock. Shame Bradbury has been out of form really.

      What isn’t a rumour is Wales have now lost North as well and have called up Halohalo to the squad. WalesOnline currently has Tompkins and Watkin as likely starters, which is pretty makeshift.

      Reply
      • Historic Banffshire on

        Hopefully you’re right. We have options like you say. Fagerson could move to 6 and Graham to 8, but Thompson does have a line out presence, and that is definitely an advantage for us to press home.

    • Scott Adams on

      I would like to see a 50 point win against Wales, cause then a few injuries (nothing serious of course) and have Biggar and Liam Williams sent off for taking players out in the air etc.

      We have an opportunity this weekend to really batter that Welsh team and make sure they won’t forget it for the years to come.

      It’s time we gave Gatland absolutely no excuse he can muster not pick four times as many Scots to Welshmen.

      Reply
      • Ade on

        This beggars belief.

        These guys are professional athletes. Playing rugby allows them to support their families and put into their pension.

        If they are injured they run the risk of losing that income. Why would anyone wish that (even if the injuries weren’t serious)?

        I’m disappointed that a player of the quality of George North isn’t winning his 100th cap against Scotland because of injury. I want to see the best talent on the pitch, and I want to see Scotland beating teams that contain that talent.

        I don’t understand the attitude that wishing the opposition injured is a good thing.

  2. weeAl on

    Looking at the stats from the England game it was the old fashioned territory and possession that kept the pressure on, and rucks won. Although we had a load more passes and line breaks they didn’t amount to points, and Wales are a team that will bide their time and come back at you even if they’ve had little possession, they’ve some electric runners, and AWJ won’t give up. If Ritchie is out, then Cummings should get VC .
    There’s no silver bullet here, so the boys will need to bring absolute intensity and accuracy and imo they should capitalise on the line out which has been working well (and not so well for Wales). Lineout -maul, should be an area for domination, the scrum too, the Welsh forwards looked battered against an Ireland with a man down.
    Our backs are looking great though I still think Harris is too slow, but to be fair to him he has played really well. Would love to see DVDM at outside centre (no idea if he can play there) and Darcy on the wing
    This game will be our hardest psychologically. We don’t have the underdog factor which we thrive off, so we need to see this as our Championship final, and put everything on the line. Forget beating England now, who cares, we need to be more than a flash in the pan side. I hope we come out organised, confident, and with total accuracy and aggression – show the talent we have.
    Put them to the sword boys!

    Reply
    • Toonie's Advisor on

      Ah weeAl, looking at the sexy bits only! Harris is absolute class, defensively one of the best 13’s around, marshals the defence and hits a crash ball well to create space for others. Not flashy or absolute rapid but he is not slow and hits some really good angles.

      Reply
  3. Referendum on

    Re-watching the match and one moment which really stands out to me is the charge down early in the first min or so… It really should have been a try and with Scotland going behind early could have changed things and their mentality….effectively England let them off big time but I think it was the way Scotland stayed calm and refused to infringe which the easiest thing to do in that moment.

    1.Price gets charged down and races back to fix the problem but only merely touches the English player Itoje which means he falls over…enough to stop him but not enough to give way a penalty.

    2. As Itoje gathers the ball Hogg then cooly allows Itoje to regather and again only challenges slightly as he cannot just jump on the guy as he may be deemed to be the tackler and you have to allow the player to get up (if commentators are correct in law) when gathering…

    3. Both these decisions mean that we haven’t given a silly penalty under pressure which would probably mean a yellow card too and allows the stupid penalty to be given away by the arriving player which is clear and obvious and gives the ref an easy decision to make.

    Reply
    • Referendum on

      4. This is all very unlike Scotland in general not compounding error upon error. But then England become Scotland of old…One Penalty is given away and we clear the lines….Line-out functions and we get another penalty which was far too easy. Not only is the pressure released but we then go on the attack with just two pens given away in a row (compounding error upon error) Within 5 mins England have given away 4 penalties and we have a line-out a few metres out and we are hammering their line and should have scored. We get 3 points and we never really looked back from there….

      But how different would it have been had they scored and we were down to 14 men (remember 2017? anyone) I doubt without those decisions under pressure we would be going into Wales with a real chance of two from two.

      Thems the big moments and we played them well!

      Reply
  4. Bazz on

    I think we should fear Wales. Saw lots of cockiness here after we won on Saturday.

    I suspect that home advantage counts for little this year and let’s face it – England were poor. I also think that man for man the Welsh squad is better than the English squad (that we faced) due to injury and rustiness of key players. It really was the perfect storm.

    Their centre’s arent the best but If I had to chose a position to be weak in it would be centre’s.

    I think there’s a 50-60% chance we win this.

    Losing after the highs of last week would be absolutely gutting though. We still have plenty to prove.

    C’mon Scotland!

    Reply
  5. TEE CEE on

    Don’t think that Scotland should ever fear anyone. We were by far the better team against England but one wrong bounce of the ball at the end and we could easily have lost.The Welsh also could have lost against 14 men if the Irish replacement S.O had put the final penalty into touch ,again fine margins in international Rugby.We should beat Wales but have to learn to convert onfield superiority into points.

    Reply
    • FF on

      If we can repeat the set piece number we did on England I don’t think we’ll face the same stifling defence England posed us with. In the other hand, it would be a surprise if Wales’ kicking game is quite as badly executed as England’s.

      Reply
  6. Johnny b on

    I believe we will beat Wales but they are not mugs and have nothing to lose, so Scotland must be mentally ready.

    Townsend has now clearly developed into a top class international coach and I think he will prepare the team well, get them focused and switched on and this will be the most important thing for them to win.

    Reply
  7. Nessie on

    A sharp intake of breath when team announced but Wales have their own probs with North & others out. On a positive spin, only one change to a powerful pack and good line-out operator just want to see some more energy/passion from Blade. Wonder if there were any considerations to playing VDW for his kicking. Redpath a huge miss but Opportunity for Lang. Hope Finn keeps the head and not force Finn passes in absence of Redpath. I like Darcy and he has a bit to prove after recent performances. Still confident but goal-kicking worries me.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not appear on the comment. It will not be used for marketing purposes or shared with any other third parties.

 characters available. Comments over the limit require moderation. Need more? Drop us an article!