KO 2.15 at The Principality Stadium
Saturday 12th February 2022
Live on BBC1
A little over 15 months ago, Scotland travelled to take on Wales in their Covid delayed Six Nations fixture. At that point, the Scots hadn’t beaten Wales away since 2002. They hadn’t beaten France away since 1999. They hadn’t beaten England away since 1983. They had never won 4 matches in a row in the Six Nations.
This Saturday, Scotland will pitch up at the Principality having ended all three of those away day hoodoos (although it is still 20 years since they last won in Cardiff). They will also be looking for a fourth consecutive Six Nations’ win for the second time in the space of less than two years.
Scotland winning streaks of four or more games in the Five/Six Nations:
- 4 – 2020/21
- 4 – 1990
- 5 – 1983/84
- 4 – 1966/67
- 6 – 1925/26
The next milestone in the firing line for Scotland has to be winning two in a row to start a championship. It’s something that they have never managed in the Six Nations era. In fact, you need to go back to the 1996 Five Nations for the last time the dark blues opened with back to back victories.
Wales Scouting Report
The veteran core at the heart of the Welsh squad that won the championship last season (and who were within a matter of minutes of a Grand Slam) has been ripped out by injuries. Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau played in all 5 games. George North (4 matches in 2021) and Leigh Halfpenny (2) have also been a significant part of Wales’ success in the last decade. Between them, these 6 players have won no less than 630 Test caps.
Despite all these absences, Wayne Pivac can still call upon another 7 players with 50+ caps (Scotland’s squad only includes 3 half-centurions). The Welsh squad also contains the equal lowest number of players with fewer than 10 caps – level with Ireland. This is still a group with plenty of experience of winning and of finding a way to get a result against all the odds. Scotland will do well not to underestimate them based on one poor performance at the Aviva Stadium.
In Dublin, Wales only kicked the ball 15 times. In a game where they struggled to get any kind of foothold there just didn’t seem to be the opportunity or ability to clear their lines consistently to try and ease some of the pressure. 455 total metres from kicks was the lowest of any of the sides in Round 1. That can be contrasted with top performers France, who leathered the ball for 1,202 metres.
Nowhere was this performance issue starker than at scrum half. Starting 9, Tomos Williams, only made 36 metres from his kicks. The Welsh were the only side to make less than 100 metres from this position.
Kicking metres by scrum halves in Round 1 of the 2022 Six Nations:
- 456m – England
- 352m – France
- 263m – Italy
- 200m – Ireland
- 149m – Scotland
- 94m – Wales
The history of matches between Scotland and Wales during the Townsend era has seen the Welsh kick more than the Scots every time they have met. That ability to dictate territory, to try and control where the opposition are getting possession that they can work with, has played a significant part in why Wales have won 4 out of the 5 games between the sides during this period.
Scotland’s recent big away wins against England and France came off the back of kicking more frequently – and to a higher standard – than their hosts. This is an area that Gregor Townsend will be looking for Ali Price, Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg to dominate if the Scots are to end their two decade wait for a win at the Principality Stadium.
- Against Ireland Wales lost 4 out of their 12 lineouts. While Scotland might be without their favoured third jumping option in Jamie Ritchie, the lock pairing of Grant Gilchrist and Jonny Gray have provided the most steals in the Townsend era and will be looking to get in amongst the home side’s setpiece.
- Ireland were relentless at the breakdown, only losing 2 of their 122 rucks and never allowing the Welsh defence time to settle. Scotland weren’t at the same level of precision against England – they will need to be better to keep Wales’ turnover threats away from the ball.
- Nick Tompkins had to attempt 24 tackles from inside centre against Ireland (21 successful, 3 missed). That was in part down to where Ireland were targeting their attacks but there’s also more than a hint that he was left exposed by his back row and the selection of winger Josh Adams at outside centre. The Saracens’ man spent much of his afternoon desperately trying to cover for the mistakes of others.
This will be the 12th 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 W
Most recent Six Nations meeting in Wales:
Wales 10 – 14 Scotland
191 – metres made with ball in hand by Wales. In the teeth of some stern Scottish defence, the Welsh struggled to make ground. In fact, this is the lowest this stat has been for any opposition during the Townsend era with the exception of one occasion. That came when Wales visited Murrayfield 12 months ago and only made 188 metres with ball in hand!
Last year that was still just enough for them to win the game though, with Scotland repeatedly committing consecutive penalty offences that allowed the visitors to march down the pitch without having to breach the home side’s defence. Discipline will need to be much improved on Saturday and certainly no back to back pens.
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from the 2020 game is here.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant Referee 1: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referee 2: Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)
Scotland have recent experience with Mr Berry as the man in the middle after he took charge of the game against Tonga just over three months ago. He also reffed a Connacht v Glasgow fixture a fortnight ago so the boffins in the performance analysis department should have plenty of data to work on!
One thing that was clear from the game against Tonga is that Mr Berry expects players to clear the contact area extremely rapidly – even if they are not directly impeding the ball. Scotland incurred his ire on a number of occasions in this facet of the game. While it wasn’t costly against the Tongans, there’s no question Wales will be much more likely to take advantage of any free territory or scoring opportunities.
Scotland’s previous games with Mr Berry in charge:
- 2017 – beat Samoa (H)
Penalties: 18 (For 9 – 9 Against)
- 2019 – lost to France (A)
Penalties: 22 (For 10 – 12 Against)
Cards: 1YC for France
- 2021 – beat Tonga (H)
Penalties: 18 (For 12 – 9 Against)
Cards: 1 YC (Rob Harley); 1 YC for Tonga
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Friday after the team announcement on Thursday.
Wales: Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Owen Watkin, Nick Tompkins, Louis Rees-Zammit; Dan Biggar (capt), Tomos Williams, Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Taine Basham, Jac Morgan, Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: Dewi Lake, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Aaron Wainwright, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Jonathan Davies.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (c), Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan Van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Johnny Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Rory Sutherland, Zander Fagerson, Magnus Bradbury, Rory Darge, Ben White, Blair Kinghorn, Cameron Redpath.