Scotland v Wales: The build-up

By Gary Heatly

There is a feel-good factor around Scottish rugby heading into Saturday’s big Six Nations match with Wales that has not been felt for a long time.

There will be no fans at BT Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon sadly, but the whole country will be cheering them on after a composed 11-6 triumph over England at Twickenham last weekend.

It was the first victory for a Scottish side at the stadium in London since 1983, but Wales too got a round one win over Ireland 21-16 and, despite having a few players injured, have still named an experienced matchday 23.

This one is a close game to call, but what things could both sides focus on to help edge them to a second win of the showpiece tournament?

Three things the Scots must do to help them win…

Stuart Hogg must lead like last week: Full-back Stuart Hogg has been captain of this team for over a year now and he has never looked more confident in the role than last week at Twickenham.

He was composed in his decision making and his team knew exactly what they were to do at every turn. There was clarity across the board barring a couple of slip ups and the 28-year-old will be keen to make sure his team are on it from minute one once again.

The man from Hawick drives the standards and he wants to back up the opening win more than anybody.

Make the lineout as impressive as at Twickenham: Before the England game some people doubted the throwing prowess of hooker George Turner at the lineout, but he was on the same wavelength as the jumpers, led by second-row Scott Cummings, from minute one.

In that game England’s Maro Itoje was trying his best to disrupt the flow and this time around the Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones will be trying to do the same.

Turner, Cummings and co must just stick to their processes and not let the very experienced Jones and his fellow Welsh jumpers put any doubt in their minds.

The three newcomers must slot in seamlessly: Ideally Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend would not have made any changes to his starting XV, but such is the physicality that Test rugby is played at there was little or no chance of that being possible.

Back-row Blade Thomson, centre James Lang and winger Darcy Graham have come into the team for the injured trio of Jamie Ritchie, Cameron Redpath and Sean Maitland.

The trio have been in and around the squad enough over the last couple of years to slot in seamlessly, but it can take time to settle in your first international for a while.

Three things the Welsh must do to help them win…

Tipuric and co must keep Hamish Watson quiet: Hamish Watson had a stormer of a game at number seven in the back-row for Scotland in round one, but less than 24 hours later his fellow openside Justin Tipuric also had a stormer.

Tipuric will need to use all the experience he has gained over 81 international caps and two Lions tours to keep Watson quiet.

However, without Ritchie there alongside Watson, Wales might sense a chink in the armoury of Scotland there and well be keen to get into the breakdown battle early and show that they mean business.

The front-row must fight fire with fire: Many pundits have been talking up the Scotland front-row, and rightly so, for their recent form, but they will be up against a very experienced Welsh trio.

Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis have 162 caps between then with Scotland’s starters in that area – Rory Sutherland, Turner and Zander Fagerson – only have 60 appearances between them.

Scrum time is going to be fascinating and whichever team can win the first scrum penalty it could set the tone for the rest of the match.

Jones was superb against Ireland last time out and Fagerson has been in the form of his life, so expect some fireworks.

Get ball to the back three: It is testament to the strength in depth that Wales have that despite missing Josh Adams due to suspension they can still field a back three as strong as Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny and Louis Rees-Zammit.

The former two players are as experienced as they come and are masters under the high ball while youngster Rees-Zammit really is a talented player as he showed with his try finish against Ireland.

New centre partnership Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin will have to gel relatively quickly because they will be keen to get as much ball to that back three as they can.

Matchday information

Scotland v Wales in the Six Nations kicks-off at 4.45pm on Saturday and is live on BBC.

Scotland squad: Hogg (C); Graham, Harris, Lang, van der Merwe; Russell (V-C), Price; Sutherland, Turner, Z Fagerson, Cummings, J Gray, Thomson, Watson, M Fagerson. Subs: Cherry, Kebble, Nel, R Gray, Graham, Steele, van der Walt, Jones.

Wales squad: Halfpenny; Rees-Zammit, Watkin, Topmkins, L Williams; Biggar, Davies; W Jones, Owens, Francis, Beard, AW Jones (C), Wainwright, Tipuric, Faletau. Subs: Dee, R Jones, Brown, Rowlands, Botham, Hardy, Sheedy, Halaholo.

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)

Assistant Referee 1: Pascal Gauzere (France)

Assistant Referee 2: Andrea Piardi (Italy)

TMO: Karl Dickson (England)

Thanks to David Gibson/FOTOSPORT for the main image

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