Match Preview – Scotland vs Wales

Scotland and Wales will both look to build on impressive opening-round wins in this year’s Six Nations when they collide at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Confidence is sky-high in the Scotland camp following last weekend’s historic triumph at Twickenham, which ignited hopes of a first championship since 1999.

Wales will also be buoyed by their comeback win over Ireland, easing the pressure on head coach Wayne Pivac after a difficult 2020.

Both of those victories came at a cost, however, with a host of key players ruled out due to injury.

Can Scotland back up Twickenham triumph?

Confidence and momentum are two priceless commodities in top-level sport, and Scotland should have both in abundance after ending 38 years of hurt at Twickenham by beating England and reclaiming the Calcutta Cup.

It was a performance way more dominant than the 11-6 scoreline suggested. The challenge for Gregor Townsend’s side now is to show that success was not a one-off.

If Scotland get things right again and Wales are sent packing, then they truly can be considered Six Nations title challengers.

Townsend sees the bigger picture

Townsend is confident Scotland can improve on their performance against England despite losing Cameron Redpath to a neck injury.

Redpath enjoyed a debut to remember at Twickenham, where he helped inspire Townsend’s side to their first win at the venue since 1983.

However, he will have to wait for his second cap, with Sean Maitland and Jamie Ritchie also ruled out through injury.

“With it being a neck issue, you are just waiting to see how it recovers,” said Townsend when asked about Redpath.

“There’s a neural element there and we are just waiting to get his strength back before he returns to full training. But we are hopeful he will have a part to play in the championship later on.”

Harlequins centre James Lang replaces Redpath in the Scotland midfield while Darcy Graham and Blade Thomson start at wing and flanker respectively.

Pivac focuses on discipline

Wayne Pivac enjoyed a much-needed win against Ireland but the Wales head coach knows a repeat result at Murrayfield is unlikely unless they lower their penalty count and solidify their set-piece.

Wales conceded 11 penalties against Ireland and struggled badly in the lineout, losing four of their own throws.

It was a similar story three months ago in a delayed 2020 Six Nations fixture when Scotland claimed a first win on Welsh soil for 18 years.

“We’ve got to make sure our discipline is improving,” said Pivac.

“When we played them last time, we were inaccurate in the set-piece and our discipline wasn’t there.

“We allowed them too much possession and territory as a result, and ended up losing the game 14-10.

“On the weekend [when Scotland beat England at Twickenham], they showed they can hold the ball for long periods of time and England, who didn’t have the best discipline, paid the ultimate price.

“Discipline and set-piece are the key. We will continue to talk about that until game-day.”

Wales injuries mount

Wales arrive at Murrayfield without a quarter of Pivac’s original 36-man Six Nations squad, as eight players are sidelined by injuries and wing Josh Adams is suspended.

Three of the absentees – George North, Johnny Williams and Jonathan Davies – are in midfield, while Pivac has also lost a trio of back-row forwards.

Amid those injury issues, Liam Williams almost slipped unnoticed through the back door as he prepares to make only a sixth Wales appearance since the World Cup quarter-final defeat against France in October 2019.

The British and Irish Lions back, a star performer on the 2017 New Zealand tour, has missed nine of Wales’ 14 Tests since that French game, being sidelined initially by a long-term ankle problem and more recently through a three-match ban.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has wasted no time in recalling the 29-year-old game-breaker, who will enhance his team’s victory hopes.

Seven heaven

Two of the form openside flankers in world rugby meet on Saturday when Scotland’s Hamish Watson and Wales’ Justin Tipuric face off.

In the year of a Lions tour, Watson made a strong selection claim during Scotland’s Twickenham triumph.

Tipuric, a key part of Wales’ armoury for the best part of 10 years, continues delivering one world-class display after another.

Whichever teams wins this weekend, it is virtually guaranteed that Watson or Tipuric will be at the forefront.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (c), 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 James Lang, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price; 1 Rory Sutherland, 2 George Turner, 3 Zander Fagerson, 4 Scott Cummings, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 WP Nel, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Huw Jones.

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Liam Williams; 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Adam Beard, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 James Botham,21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Willis Halaholo.

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