Both of these teams come into this match following the opposite experience on opening weekend: Wales travelled to Ireland and came back with 2 points after a last-gasp penalty saw them win by the same narrow margin, having trailed for much of the match; Scotland, on the other hand, dominated England at home for large periods, only to fail to capitalise on their chances, and end up 7 point Calcutta Cup losers.
Many are expecting Wales, as a result, to pick up a victory in Cardiff on week two.
But don’t discount Scotland. Against England, they showed for the first time in a long while, that they have added some attacking impact to their already rock-steady defensive game. They broke the line – albeit against a new-look England – on a number of occasions and, on a better day, could easily have scored two or three tries for a 10 point victory, such was their superiority, at times. England showed on Saturday in beating Italy, in Rome, that they are no pushovers, too.
Warren Gatland’s Wales, however, have a huge trump card. George North. Their young winger was the battering ram with which they broke down Ireland. Scotland will need to stop Wales’ huge teenager if they are to shut out Wales and pick up a result today.
The Scots, though, organised for another season by Andy Robinson, are well used to toughing it out in defence, so it’s not entirely unlikely that they’ll be able to do just that for most of the 80 minutes in Cardiff, though Wales appear nailed on to score at least one try.
Both sides have seen enforced changes since week one: Wales lost Bradley Davies, following the player picking up a ban for a horrible looking retaliatory off the ball tackle against Ireland; while Scotland’s Dan Parks opted to hang up his international boots for good after his uncertain kicking – including one try-costing mistake – against England. Scotland make one further change, adding Edinburgh’s Geoff Cross at tighthead.
Wales also see the return of Gethin Jenkins (prop) and Dan Lydiate (flanker), who moved into the team having recovered from injuries. Ryan Jones moves to the second row to replace the banned Bradley Davies in that position, while Rhys Gill misses out following Jenkins’ return. Uncapped Scarlets lock, Lou Reed, moves into the replacements bench for Wales.
While Wales are, quite rightly, favourites to land a victory in Millennium Stadium, Scotland only need to look back to some of the Welsh’s uninspired first half performances from last year to draw some hope that players like Max Evans will be able to jink their way over the try line. If Scotland can score, the boost might be enough to see them on to victory. However, concede early against this expansive Welsh side, and Scottish heads could drop.
This fascinating encounter is closer than one might think. Based on the green shoots Scotland displayed last week, and Wales’ habit of starting slowly in Millennium Stadium, we could just see Scotland nick this by 1-5 points. If, and its a big if, they can cross the try line at least once.
Expect, therefore, another RBS 6 Nations 2012 5 point game, though if the total score is high, it will most likely be because of a big Wales win.
Much depends on the Scottish attitude in the opening minutes.
[UPDATE:] Wales have replaced captain Sam Warburton with Aaron Shingler after their captain failed to recover from a dead leg sustained in the match with Ireland. Shingler will make his debut in the back row. Ryan Jones will be captain against Scotland.
Wales v Scotland Starting XVs – RBS 6 Nations 2012
- 15 Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues)
- 14 Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues)
- 13 Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)
- 12 Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues)
- 11 George North (Scarlets)
- 10 Rhys Priestland (Scarlets)
- 9 Mike Phillips (Bayonne)
- 1 Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues)
- 2 Huw Bennett (Ospreys)
- 3 Adam Jones (Ospreys)
- 4 Ryan Jones (Ospreys, Capt)
- 5 Ian Evans (Ospreys)
- 6 Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons)
7 Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues)
- 7 Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)
- 8 Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons)
- 16 Ken Owens (Scarlets)
- 17 Paul James (Ospreys)
- 18 Lou Reed (Scarlets)*
- 19 Andy Powell (Sale Sharks)
- 20 Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues)
- 21 James Hook (Perpignan)
- 22 Scott Williams (Scarlets)
* Denotes uncapped player
Scotland Starting XV
- 15 Rory Lamont (Glasgow Warriors)
- 14 Lee Jones (Edinburgh Rugby)
- 13 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh Rugby)
- 12 Sean Lamont (Scarlets)
- 11 Max Evans (Castres)
- 10 Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby)
- 9 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors)
- 1 Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh Rugby)
- 2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby, Capt)
- 3 Geoff Cross (Edinburgh Rugby)
- 4 Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors)
- 5 Jim Hamilton (Gloucester)
- 6 Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester)
- 7 Ross Rennie (Edinburgh Rugby)
- 8 David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby)
- 16 Scott Lawson (Gloucester)
- 17 Ed Kalman (Glasgow Warriors)*
- 18 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors)
- 19 John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors)
- 20 Mike Blair (Edinburgh Rugby)
- 21 Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors)*
- 22 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors)*
* Denotes uncapped player