Date: 12th February 2012
Venue: Millennium Stadium
Referee: Romain Poite
Warren Gatland’s men summoned the spirit of the dragon last weekend to prevail over a fancied Irish side and will now head into this home clash as firm favourites. Captain Sam Warburton has shrugged off injury concerns to start and he is joined in the line-up by Gethin Jenkins and Dan Lydiate, who both return from injury. Rhys Gill could consider himself somewhat unlucky to miss out for the returning Jenkins but lock Bradley Davies has only himself to blame as his suspension sees him ruled out with Ryan Jones shifting to lock. Elsewhere Wales remain the same, and the backline, who played excellently against Ireland, will hope to wreak the same havoc this weekend.
Smarting after the at home loss to an underdog England last week and reeling from the shock retirement of Dan Parks, Scotland will need to go all out to redeem themselves. And this has been reflected in some of the selection decisions this week: there are 2 changes to the starting XV and 3 changes to the bench. Greig Laidlaw gets the nod at fly-half, a move that many were hoping to see. And Geoff Cross comes in for Euan Murray who is unavailable due to it being a Sunday game. On the bench uncapped players Duncan Weir, Stuart Hogg and Ed Kalman all come in, and will be eager to make their starts from the bench on Sunday.
The rest of the team remains the same, and will hope to dominate over a slightly depleted Welsh side.
What to Expect:
A big clash, characteristic of those between Wales and Scotland. Big hits, big tackles and a big battle, although hopefully without some of the injuries that this encounter seems to bring.
Scotland captain Ross Ford has called on the roof to be closed to allow Scotland to play free-flowing rugby, though this could play into the hands of the Welsh. Guided by Rhys Priestland, Jon Davies and George North were gargantuan last week; an open game will suit them down to the ground.
Head to Head: Ryan Jones v Richie Gray
The veritable poster boy of Scottish rugby, 6ft 8.5in, (10 with the hair!) will be battling with a resurgent Ryan Jones. While the Welsh will be suffering the loss of Bradley Davies, the power and impact provided by Jones last week should mean the Welsh pack loses nothing. Compared to the brute strength of his Welsh counterpart Gray is athletic and agile. Gray is forming a good partnership with Jim Hamilton, who provides the raw power in this pairing. Gray is not afraid of taking the big hits, nor is he afraid of doing the leg work. There are two very different second rows lining up to face each other on Sunday, and it will be interesting to see which style of play wins out.
One to Watch: Nick De Luca & Alex Cuthbert
The common theme of last week’s comments regarding Scottish players performance appeared to be ‘was Nick De Luca playing?’ such was the anonymity of his showing. With Scotland’s backs, or lack thereof, coming under increasing criticism, De Luca will need to impress in this game if he hopes to contribute to a better team performance than the crowds saw at Murrayfield last week.
Alex Cuthbert was substituted at half-time after rather forgetful first start for Wales, but Gatland has stuck with the 21-year-old who will now match up against Scotland’s Max Evans. Cuthbert has clear talent, and alongside George North forms a monstrous wing pairing, so Gatland will doubtless hope for more from the Gloucester-born flyer this Sunday.
Last Result: 12th February 2011, Six Nations last year. Wales came to Murrayfield, and turned in a good performance against a shoddy Scottish side. Scotland 6 – 24 Wales
Weather: High of 7°, cloudy with a light north westerly breeze. Rain is a possibility.
Scotland held up well against England last week, with only their lack of clinical finishing to blame, but Wales’ backs represent a different threat. Wales by 12. TJ
Riding on a high from their win over Ireland last weekend, I think that Wales may have this one in the bag. Wales by 6. CL