After their historic win at Twickenham, Scotland go into today's Six Nations clash with a surge of self-belief. But Wales, too, are looking to make it two wins from two…
Six Nations Wales v Scotland preview
Only three teams can still win a 2021 Six Nations Grand Slam – and two of them meet in a fascinating Murrayfield match-up this afternoon (4.45pm).
All the aces, seemingly, lie with Scotland. Since losing narrowly to England in apocalyptic conditions in Edinburgh a year ago, they have reeled off championship wins against Italy, France, Wales and England.
Last weekend’s success at Twickenham – only their fifth there in history – has rightly been dubbed an “11-6 thrashing”, such was the Scots’ control. Their 62% possession, founded on a rock-solid set-piece, was the highest figure in the tournament across the last two editions.
Sir Clive Woodward called the result a “game changer” for coach Gregor Townsend and it sparked talk of a healthy Scottish representation in this year’s Lions squad, something not seen so far this century. The likes of Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Hamish Watson are viewed as shoo-ins. But now men like Matt Fagerson, Duhan van Der Merwe and even one-cap centre Cameron Redpath – absent this weekend – are being tossed into the debate.
Are people getting ahead of themselves? Certainly Wales won’t mind seeing all the plaudits being heaped on their opponents. They may point to Scotland’s fallibility at box-kick exits, or the opportunities offered by their occasionally narrow defence. They will be conscious of Scotland’s regular failure to rack up points, their red-zone efficiency the poorest out of any side in round one apart from England.
In contrast, Wales created two opportunities worthy of the name against Ireland and took them both. They showed great heart to turn the tide against the Irish, the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Tomas Francis and Justin Tipuric producing towering defensive performances.
However, there is an asterisk against the victory because of the red card doled out to Peter O’Mahony after 14 minutes. Wales should be winning a game against 14 men.
Related content: Peter O’Mahony sent off against Wales
And Wayne Pivac’s side has had more than the drawback of a six-day turnaround to worry about. Injuries have deprived them of numerous options in midfield and the back row, as well as their best scrum-half (see team news for details).
Murrayfield holds no fears for Wales, having won on five of their past six visits. But recent meetings have been tight. That includes last October’s delayed 2020 Six Nations clash when Scotland triumphed 14-10, their first win in the Principality since 2002. Stuart McInally’s second-half try from a driving maul proved decisive that day.
Not since 1996, when Townsend was playing, have Scotland won their first two matches of a championship. A week after breaking a 38-year Twickenham hoodoo, they will hope to break that 25-year hoodoo so they can head to Paris later this month still dreaming big.
What are the odds?
Scotland are favourites for this match, with odds of 8-15 on Bet365. A Wales win is 13-8 while the draw is 20-1. If you fancy putting some money on the fixture, Bet365 have a welcome bonus of up to £100 in Bet Credits.
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What’s the big team news?
Scotland make three changes from the side that regained the Calcutta Cup. Jamie Ritchie and Sean Maitland, who both came off at Twickenham with muscle tightness, are listed as injured.
Scarlets back-row Blade Thomson, who faced Italy and Ireland last autumn, comes in at six while Edinburgh’s Darcy Graham replaces Maitland in the back three.
The biggest surprise is the third injury absentee, Redpath, who played the full 80 last weekend without any apparent discomfort. It emerged that he has a neck injury. Harlequins’ James Lang steps in for the Bath youngster at 12, with Townsend retaining the same replacements bench from round one.
Injuries have forced significant changes to the Wales back division. Johnny Williams and Hallom Amos (both head injuries), George North (foot) and Tomas Williams (hamstring) all drop out of last weekend’s XV. North had been set to win his 100th Welsh cap.
With Jonathan Davies also missing with an ankle injury, Owen Watkin and Nick Tompkins form a new-look midfield pairing. Liam Williams makes a timely return after suspension to fill a wing spot and Gareth Davies steps into the nine shirt, with Scarlets team-mate Kieran Hardy installed on the bench.
Dan Lydiate’s cruel ACL injury last weekend might have opened the door for Josh Navidi or Josh Macleod at blindside, but they are both injured too.
Macleod, in fact, was told he had been picked for his Test debut, only to rupture his achilles tendon shortly afterwards in training. So Aaron Wainwright comes into the back row and will provide a valuable option in a lineout that has struggled all season.
James Botham and Willis Halaholo, both summoned to the squad this week, are among the replacements. The uncapped Halaholo, 30, had been selected for a non-cap International against the Barbarians 15 months ago, only to drop out with a long-term knee injury.
What have the coaches said?
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend: “We have an opportunity against Wales to continue the positive start to the Guinness Six Nations we made last week against England.
“It was a very encouraging performance at Twickenham and the squad performed to a level which has to be the benchmark throughout the tournament. Wales are also coming into this game after a win and will have the same objective, so it will be a tough challenge as always.
“Both teams were involved in physical contests last weekend, and that is evidenced by the injuries Wales and ourselves have picked up. For us, we are able to bring in three quality players in Blade, James and Darcy. They have been training well and are highly motivated to make the most of this opportunity.
On Redpath’s injury: “With it being a neck issue, you are just waiting to see how it recovers.
“There’s a neural element there and we’re waiting to get his strength back before he returns to full training. But we’re hopeful he’ll have a part to play in the championship later on.”
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac: “We’re pleased to have kicked the tournament off with a victory last weekend and to be heading to Scotland with a win behind us.
“We continue to build and to move forward and it’s great to do that from a position of winning. It’s a quick six-day turnaround but we’re looking forward to getting back out there.
“We’ve picked up a couple of injuries but we see it as more of an opportunity for those coming into the side. We have to feel extremely disappointed for Josh (Macleod), who we selected to start and to win his first cap only to be ruled out later that day through injury.”
Any interesting statistics?
- Scotland are seeking their fifth consecutive championship win – something they haven’t achieved since 1984
- They have conceded just five tries in their past six championship matches. They conceded an average of 14.8 points at Murrayfield in 2020 – their third-lowest figure in a calendar year in the pro era
- Wales recorded a 90% tackle success rate last weekend – the best rate of round one
- The Scots are aiming to record back-to-back tournament wins against Wales for the first time since 2002-03
- They have scored only six tries in their last seven home Six Nations games v Wales
- Duhan van der Merwe has bagged four tries in his first five starts for Scotland, only failing to score against France in that run. He’s beaten 25 defenders in those five games
- Justin Tipuric made 29 tackles in Wales’ win over Ireland – the most by any player in the championship since Guilhem Guirado’s 31 against Ireland in 2018
- Scotland were the only side not to lose a lineout (15/15) on the opening weekend. Wales lost more than any other side (four)
- Scotland made 29 tackle breaks against England last weekend – more than anyone else
- Wales have lost their last six away games, conceding 30 points a game in that spell. The last time they endured a worse away run was the ten-match losing streak in 2006-07
- Four of the last six championship meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer
- Scottish lock Scott Cummings recorded 45 breakdown arrivals against England – no other player hit 40-plus attacking rucks in round one
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Scotland v Wales, Saturday 13 February, BT Murrayfield
The match kicks off at 4.45pm and will be broadcast live on BBC1 and S4C. There will be radio commentary on BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru, plus live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.
England’s Matt Carley takes the whistle, assisted in the truck by TMO Karl Dickson. Both men were on duty for last weekend’s Italy-France game in Rome. The assistant referees are Pascal Gauzere of France and Italy’s Andrea Piardi.
What are the line-ups?
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, James Lang, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Blade Thomson, Hamish Watson, 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: Leigh Halfpenny; Louis Rees-Zammit, Owen Watkin, Nick Tompkins, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, 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 Uilisi Halaholo.
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