Preview: Wales v Scotland

Date published: February 12 2016

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Wales and Scotland will be determined to get their Six Nations campaigns on track when they do battle in Cardiff on Saturday.

Both sides are winless after the tournament's opening round and can ill afford defeat as it could have dire consequences for their Championship aspirations.

Wales head in to this fixture after securing a hard-fought 16-16 draw against Ireland in Dublin last weekend and Scotland suffered a frustrating 15-9 defeat to England in their opener at Murrayfield.

Both sides have stuck with the tried and trusted, after last weekend's results, with Wales coach Warren Gatland naming an unchanged side and Scotland boss Vern Cotter making one forced alteration to his run-on side with Duncan Taylor taking over from the injured Matt Scott at inside centre.

The coaches have also agreed that the roof of the Millennium Stadium will be shut with Cotter making no secret of the fact that his side prefer it that way, in case it rains, so that his side can play expansively in dry conditions.

Against Ireland, Wales fought back after trailing 0-13 during the first half. And although they did well to hold the current champions to a draw in their backyard, Wales lock Luke Charteris highlighted the importance of their clash with Scotland and all their remaining fixtures in the tournament.

"We have to win all four," he said.

"We saw last year how close this tournament has been over the last few years. Unfortunately, there is no Grand Slam or Triple Crown to go for now, but we have to knuckle down and get four wins from four.

"I saw a bit of the (Scotland versus England) game, and (Scotland) looked good.

"It was a physical game against England – both packs went at it – and they will be a challenge, especially with us having one day less recovery, so we will have to look after ourselves."

Scotland have shown considerable improvement since Cotter took over the coaching reins in 2014. But despite being more competitive under Cotter, they are yet to have the desired results and head into this encounter on the back of eight successive Six Nations losses which is their worst run in the tournament's history.

They fared little better in their match-ups with Wales in recent years, losing their last eight matches in this fixture with their last victory registered in 2007 at Murrayfield while they haven't beaten their hosts in Cardiff since 2002.

Scotland scrum-half and captain Greig Laidlaw believes that statistic is about to change this weekend and is quietly confident ahead of this showdown.

"Wales are a good team, very physical," he said. 

"But we've got a couple of things up our sleeve which we think can cause them problems. We've got a good plan going into the game, now we need to execute it."

Players to watch:

For Wales: In George North, the home side have one of the game's best finishers, but the 23-year-old has gone off the boil at Test level recently. North has scored just five Test tries in his last 16 appearances since June 2014 – and hasn't crossed the whitewash in the last five Tests, so there's some pressure on him to break his try-drought.

For Scotland: Keep an eye on big number eight David Denton who has the ability to wreak havoc with ball in hand once he builds up a head of steam. There was little evidence of that against England last weekend and if Denton can deliver a solid performance his side have a chance. Another dangerous attacker is full-back Stuart Hogg, who should provide headaches to the Welsh defence if he finds the ball in space. Hogg gained more metres (101) on attack than anyone at Murrayfield last weekend.

Head-to-head: The battle between the two fly-halves will have a huge impact on this fixture's outcome as both Wales' Dan Biggar and Scotland's Finn Russell will be out to prove a point.

Wales have kept faith with Biggar, although he was forced off the field with an ankle injury midway into the first half against Ireland last weekend. His replacement in that match, Rhys Priestland, gave a good account of himself and helped his team fight back to share the spoils, meaning Biggar will be keen to show why he's his country's first-choice number 10 by delivering an assured performance.

Russell will be eager to redeem himself after making a couple of costly mistakes against England. He missed a drop goal shortly before half-time in that clash, which would have given his side the lead, and opted to boot the ball upfield – after an interception – when an offload to Hogg on his left would have sent the full-back over for a try.

Both pivots have huge responsibilities on their shoulders and will be expected to bring out the best in their outside backs with their playmaking abilities, and also keep the scoreboard ticking for their respective sides with accurate goalkicking.

Previous results:

2015: Wales won 26-23 in Edinburgh
2014: Wales won 51-3 in Cardiff
2013: Wales won 28-18 in Edinburgh
2012: Wales won 27-13 in Cardiff
2011: Wales won 24-6 in Edinburgh
2010: Wales won 31-24 in Cardiff
2009: Wales won 26-13 in Edinburgh
2008: Wales won 30-15 in Cardiff
2007: Scotland won 21-9 in Edinburgh
2006: Wales won 28-18 in Cardiff

Prediction: Wales will be viewing this fixture as a launchpad to mount a serious title challenge. Scotland to their credit are more than capable of making this a contest, but Wales will prove too strong. Wales to win by 6!

The teams:

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton (c), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Gareth Anscombe

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Sean Lamont

Date: Saturday, February 13
Venue: Millennium Stadium
Kick-off: 16:50 GMT
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

by David Skippers

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