Off the back of another Six Nations victory over England, can Scotland overturn a losing tradition this weekend?
Warren Gatland has never lost to Scotland with Wales but with the New Zealander back at the coaching helm, Scotland will have the opportunity to break their 12-year hoodoo against the three-time British and Irish Lions coach this Saturday in the second round of the Six Nations.
Gatland’s Wales never lost to Scotland in his first highly successful era as head coach from 2007 to 2019, but what a difference four years makes.
While the WRU tears itself apart with scandal, former CEO Steve Phillips resigned in the wake of allegations of misogyny, sexism and racism within the organisation, Gregor Townsend’s Scotland enter their next clash buoyed by a historic third successive Calcutta Cup win against England.
Wales, meanwhile, could not have had a worse start to their Six Nations campaign after being dismantled by Ireland. The team, currently sitting in last place, suffered their heaviest home loss in the competition since 2001 with a 34-10 defeat.
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The last time Wales lost to Scotland the year was 2017 and Rob Howley had assumed control while Gatland was on sabbatical with the Lions. Prior to that, Scotland hadn’t won since 2007, and you have to wind the clock back to 2002 to find the last time they claimed victory on Welsh soil in Cardiff.
It’s worth mentioning that Scotland’s Gatland curse is restricted to Wales. Scotland beat the New Zealander back in 1999 when he was head coach of Ireland during the Five Nations championship. Gatland took over from Brian Ashton who resigned a year earlier after a first round loss to… Scotland.
So, it’s fair to say Gatland and Scotland have a history fraught with tension and so too does this upcoming international clash with its near 140 years of history.
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Add to this that Gatland has already suffered defeat to a former Lions coaching colleague after losing to Andy Farrell’s Ireland, and his face-off with Townsend, the attack coach in South Africa in 2021, will have an added personal touch.
But Scotland have more patterns to break than just the one involving Gatland. For the last two years of the championship, they have beaten England and lost the following round to Wales.
In 2022, the Scots lost by three points to Wayne Pivac’s side after victory against the English, while in 2021 they lost by an agonising one point in similar fashion.
Nevertheless, Townsend’s Scotland seem to be in the best position yet to shake their Gatland curse after standout performances from the likes of Duhan van der Merwe and Sione Tuipulotu in round one.
Scrum-half Ben White was another try-scorer and top performer at Twickenham and the London Irish No 9 reinforced how important it is for Townsend’s men not to lose momentum in the championship.
He said: “I think you can see the mindset shift. As soon as the whistle sounded, we went right into a huddle on the pitch. We’re a bit sick of having the same story written. You know, beat England and then lose to Wales. We want to make it two wins from two and give a performance the nation can be proud of, it’s as simple as that.
“We are very clear on what we want to do and where we want to go as a group. We know we need to back this up, it’s something we are very aware of and something we spoke about at the end of the game.
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“It’s all well and good doing it on Saturday. But we’re now facing a Wales team that lost to Ireland this weekend, so we know they are going to come and try and right that wrong.
“We need to focus on us. We need to get the mental stuff right. Wales are a good team, it’s as simple as that, but we have good players too and we just need to be confident. We are trying to be a smart team.
“We need to be focused from minute one. We need to be clinical in attack, it’s all on us.”
In the other camp, Gatland has less than a week to resurrect Wales’ hopes.
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