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Talking points as Scotland target history while wounded Wales look for a response

10 Feb 2023 3 minute read
Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland Nigel French / PA Images

Andrew Baldock

Scotland and Wales meet at Murrayfield on Saturday after an opening Guinness Six Nations weekend that saw them experience wildly contrasting fortunes.

While Scotland retained the Calcutta Cup by beating England at Twickenham, Wales’ 34-10 loss to Ireland was their heaviest Six Nations home defeat since 2001.

Are Scotland the real deal?

If Scotland’s players needed bringing back down to earth following their memorable Calcutta Cup victory over England, then a quick glance at the Six Nations’ historic results should provide it.

Since the tournament began in 2000, Scotland have never recorded back-to-back wins at the start of a Six Nations campaign, and the last two years they lost to Wales after beating England.

If they are to challenge at the competition’s business end, then consistency has to accompany them.

Up one minute, down the next, is no formula for success.

Murrayfield is Wales’ happy hunting ground

Wales were a distant second-best in their Six Nations opener against title favourites Ireland, yet Edinburgh is not a trip that should fill them with dread.

They have won on six of their last seven visits to the Scottish capital, and head coach Warren Gatland has never experienced defeat in the fixture – home or away.

During his first spell as Wales boss between 2008 and 2019, Scotland only claimed one win, and that was during the 2017 Six Nations campaign when Gatland was on secondment with the British and Irish Lions and Rob Howley took charge.

Wales’ success-rate across the last 20 games against Scotland stands at 85 per cent.

Duhan the destroyer

Scotland’s giant wing Duhan van der Merwe has already left his sizeable footprints all over this season’s Six Nations.

His two-try demolition job on England, which included one of the tournament’s greatest solo scores, highlighted him among the finest finishers in world rugby.

At 6ft 4in and more than 16 stone, Van der Merwe is a handful for any opposition defence, and Wales know they cannot afford to allow him time and space, although that is far easier said than done.

He has racked up 16 tries in 24 Tests for Scotland, providing a box-office presence.

Warren Gatland’s huge selection calls

The odds on Wales going into a Six Nations game – or any Test match for that matter – without at least one of Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau in their starting XV would have appeared inconceivable before the tournament began.

They offer vast experience – 342 Wales caps between them – but Gatland has now relegated Faletau to the bench, while omitting lock Jones and flanker Tipuric completely.

In come the likes of Exeter pair Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza, plus Leicester flanker Tommy Reffell.

even months out from the World Cup, Gatland is not messing around.

Slow starters Wales have not disappointed

Whether it is the Six Nations or autumn internationals, Wales have built something of a reputation for starting campaigns slowly.

But they barely got out of the blocks against Ireland, especially during a first half when Andy Farrell’s team scored 27 points during the opening 27 minutes.

The statistics were damning from a Welsh perspective – 15 penalties conceded, 33 missed tackles and nine possession turnovers coughed up.

And across last weekend’s three Tests, Wales did not have one player in the top five for carries, turnovers won or offloads.

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