Scotland v Wales: Van could be the man to catch Gatland’s eye

By Gary Heatly

Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe just is the kind of “big, strong, speedy” wide man that “ticks all the boxes” for Warren Gatland – and another good showing against Wales this weekend can push him into British & Irish Lions reckoning, according to former Wales man James Hook.

South African-born van der Merwe, 25, has bulldozed his way over for four tries in his first six Test matches since qualifying to play for the Scots last year.

The most recent of those scores came when he barged past a number of England defenders last week at Twickenham to help Scotland win at the ground for the first time in 38 years.

And Hook, the 35-year-old stand-off/centre who earned 81 Welsh caps and was called-up to the Lions tour late in 2009, believes that if van der Merwe can keep his standards up – starting at BT Murrayfield in the second round of the Six Nations on Saturday afternoon – then he could well force his way into Gatland’s plans.

Lions head coach Gatland’s men are due to be off to South Africa this summer and Hook said: I really like the look of van der Merwe.

“He the kind of player that Warren Gatland likes to have out wide in his teams, he is big, strong, speedy and draws in defenders which creates space for others – he ticks all the boxes really.

“Against South Africa you have to be physical all over the pitch and there is no doubt that van der Merwe will be in Gatland’s thinking if he can put in another good performance against Wales and back it up over the rest of the tournament.

“Certainly, Wales will have to be at their best defensively to stop him and if he can come of his wing and link up with Finn Russell then that poses another threat.”

Finn Russell: “He does things that others cannot do”

Finn Russell, the 28-year-old stand-off, was a late replacement on the 2017 Lions tour, but Hook feels he should be there from the start this time around as “he can do things that no one else in the world can do”.

“If Finn Russell goes on the Lions tour, it will go on merit and he is different to the other likely options at 10 in Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton and Dan Biggar,” Hook, who has recently turned to writing and co-wrote a book for youngsters called ‘Chasing a Rugby Dream: Book One’ with author David Brayley, stated.

“He is not your usual Warren Gatland 10, but if he can conjure some more magic up then he can’t be ignored.

“I really like the things Finn Russell does, there are always a couple of mistakes in there, but the things that he does well can change or break a game.

“He is great to watch and very entertaining.”

“Wales still have an experienced spine to their team”

Wales beat Ireland in round one, but since then have lost a crop of players to injury including Josh Navidi and George North.

They like playing at Murrayfield, most recently winning in 2015 and 2019 on their travels, but they could face a different Scotland this time.

“A confident Scotland team at Murrayfield with their tails up are tough to play against so it could be a tricky afternoon for Wales,” Hook stated.

“However, Wales still have an experienced spine to their team and although Owen Watkin coming in at inside centre is quite young [24] he already has 26 caps to his name.

“Nick Tompkins is alongside him and five or six months ago he looked like bein a nailed on regular start for Wales and he has a lot of talent.

Hook himself lost whren he visited Edinburgh for the first time with Wales back in 2007, but then went on to clock up four wins in Cardiff and two away from home up until 2014.

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

A limited number of signed copies of Chasing a Rugby Dream: Book One, are available from and is otherwise available from all good high street bookshops and online.