I thought I should also chip in with something; what about the Welsh?!
During the 6N a bit of navel gazing is common place and no nation is more morbidly insular than Scotland. We mustn’t, however, always focus on our own shortcomings. If Gregor is right about Andy Robinson’s feelings towards the last game then there is no need to dwell on the past. And rightly so. Unlike France during much of Sunday’s onslaught Wales will never bludgeon their way through a defence. Not the way they are playing right now. At the Millennium Stadium a lot depends on which Wales turns up. Jekyll or Hyde?
If we were being positive (which Scots, of course, always are!) then for our own sakes we should look at the Welsh deficiencies. The most glaring of which, at this point, must be their line-out. Wyn Jones, last Saturday’s pariah, has failed to dominate proceedings in the restart of late and Charteris has been dumped from the squad because of his inconsistency. None of this matters, anyway, because Gareth Williams couldn’t hit a barn door with a bazooka from 5m out.
All set-pieces are vital. In fact, while most of the country worries about our magic disintegrating scrum and the fact that 5 of the Welsh starting pack duke it out together for the Ospreys every week, we have to look at things more closely. For most, or all of the game they have no Jenkins. No Rees. No Bennett. No Gough. While the second row for Saturday is Jonathan Thomas, a man who is really a back-rower who normally likes to fly off towards 10 from a scrum. Along with this, I’m pretty certain I would take the sizeable pairing of Murray and Hamilton over Paul James and Jonathan Thomas any day. Yet again, none of this could matter because Chris Cusiter is looking through the scrum every time at Gareth Cooper, a man whose service could be timed with a sun dial.
Unfortunately once we get past these potential problem spots in tight for Wales we see why we could be in for a long day. If Cooper manages to put the ball in the right place then we may have problems for certain members of our back division. In Stephen Jones Wales have a 10 that at the present time can control a game the same, if not better, than Parks. In Jamie Roberts they have a guy who is a genuinely world class player on his day. James Hook can step Morrison, Lamont and Paterson. Lee Byrne might decide to play.
Make no mistakes about it. Wales have a few weapons in their arsenal. If there is parity in the set-piece and the Welsh blitz defence, which has been leaky of late, monopolises the gain-line then there could be a few smiling taffs by half 4. On the other hand, if rumours are to be believed, Gatland and Edwards are close to exhausting their relationship with the Welsh player. Allegedly both men would at least listen to some offers once this campaign is over, and if Gatland begins to show the indifference he did at the end of his Irish reign then the rest of the 6N could be in luck.
This match is one Robinson is seemingly targeting and it is true that Wales are inconsistent right now. In truth I reckon that the only chance Scotland has of winning this away fixture is if the Scots back-row cancels out Martyn Williams and Ryan Jones at the breakdown. A firing Welsh team thrives on quick ball on the front foot and needs it to make the likes of Byrne and Shane Williams effective. Let us hope that Wales defeat themselves, long before the men in Blue touch the ball.
In different news, if you’re interested in hearing about other games this weekend (two with a Welsh-Scottish flavour!) then check out these British and Irish Cup fixtures taking place:
Friday 12: Newport v Gael Force, Rodney Parade, Newport KO 7.30pm
or in Scotland:
Saturday 13: Ayr v Birmingham and Solihull, Millbrae, Ayr KO 4pm
and, Sunday 14: Heriot’s v Neath, Goldenacre, Edinburgh, KO 2pm