Planet Rugby

Preview: Scotland v Wales

08th March 2013 06:04

Share:

Scotland duo Geoff Cross celebrating with Stuart Hogg

Scotland: Can they make it three?

Scotland or Wales could move joint-top of the Six Nations and possibly overtake leaders England with a big victory at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Granted, such a possibility is expected to last for only 24 hours but applying pressure is going to be critical if they are to usurp the Red Rose in 2013.

England are in a strong spot and despite Sergio Parisse being back at the tail for the Azzurri, they should be in great shape going into Round 5.

Stuart Lancaster's men currently hold a 17 and 28-point cushion over Wales and Scotland respectively, which on form should grow at the end of the week. However, stranger things have happened in rugby than Italy finding away day form so the Celts won't be giving up just yet.

In contrast to Italy's travelling blues, it is worth noting that Wales approach this match gunning for their fifth straight Six Nations win on the road.

For the Scots of the 21st century, this is unchartered territory as they have not won three successive games in the tournament since it was the Five Nations - a 16-14 win over Wales in 1996 set up a Grand Slam shot against England, which they lost. Therefore, a victory should be their immediate objective.

"If you look at their squad, it's absolutely filled with Lions and world-class players," warned Scotland captain Kelly Brown when speaking of their opponent to the press this week.

"I would say it will be our toughest challenge in the championship so far but as a sportsman you want to be challenged by the top teams and there is no doubt Wales are one of those."

How Scotland beat Ireland continues to perplex and I don't think we will see a more one-sided half ultimately go in the other direction when a final whistle is blown. It was staggering to see Ireland claim 71 percent possession and 77 percent of the territory and still lose.

But, that is history, and Scotland approach their third and final home game of the Six Nations Championship full of confidence under Scott Johnson and Dean Ryan. The team selection sees two changes made as Geoff Cross - somewhat harshly - finds himself on the bench after what was an impressive effort against Ireland. His place goes to Euan Murray - who returns from missing their recent victory due to his religious beliefs - in a rugged pack.

For the Welsh, Justin Tipuric has been replaced by Sam Warburton in a move that hands the latter possibly his last opportunity to book a place on the Lions tour to Australia. He does not reclaim the captaincy, however, as Ryan Jones continues to excel in the responsibility, with his return coinciding with Wales' return to winning ways. Jones' experience has been key and it seems Rob Howley is buying into that as Alun-Wyn Jones also comes into the XV.

Howley's remaining change to the line-up that won well in Italy is Paul James coming into the loosehead spot for Gethin Jenkins, who has a calf injury. He fully deserves his start.

Much rests on whether Scotland can avoid another opening half that they were subjected to against Ireland as Wales will take the points on offer, thus building a lead the Irish could not. They've brought in Duncan Weir to help that process but I feel Wales should prevail.

Ones to watch:

For Scotland: The coaches will hope that change at fly-half sparks their attack. In truth we have yet to see Tim Visser and Sean Maitland given sufficient ball to motor so that needs to be addressed. Duncan Weir is the man charged with getting things going.

For Wales: It is a massive opportunity for Sam Warburton to shine. A good performance without the captaincy responsibility should nail down his place for next week's clash with England and another strong game in Cardiff is likely to see Warren Gatland include him.

Head-to-head: Ryan Grant and Geoff Cross were strong for Scotland against Ireland, but this week Cross is joined by Euan Murray as the starting props. The duo go up against an in-form Adam Jones while Paul James gets a run due to Gethin Jenkins' absence. James has been superb for Bath this year and this battle up front is going to be interesting. Richard Hibbard and Ross Ford may well be scrapping for the third Lions hooking spot.

Recent results:

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
2005: Wales won 46-22 in Edinburgh
2004: Wales won 23-10 in Cardiff
2003: Wales won 23-9 in Cardiff
2003: Scotland won 30-22 in Edinburgh

Prediction: Wales to sneak this one by 1-5 points!

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Robert Harley, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Moray Low, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Max Evans.

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Ryan Jones (capt), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Scott Andrews, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Andrew Coombs, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams.

Date: Saturday, March 9
Kick-off: 14:30
Venue: Murrayfield
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 27
Saracens vs Sale15:00
Leicester vs London Irish15:00
Northampton vs Bath15:15
Sunday , September 28
Exeter vs Harlequins14:00
Wasps vs Newcastle14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Argentina vs New Zealand23:10
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
Saturday , September 27
Zebre vs Ulster15:00
Munster vs Ospreys18:30
Sunday , September 28
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Benetton Treviso16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon vs Montpellier18:00
Stade Francais vs La Rochelle18:00
Bayonne vs Toulouse18:00
Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
Lyon vs Castres18:00
Grenoble vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Pumas vs Western Province15:00
Griquas vs Lions15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle 10 - 35 NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Ospreys 62 - 13 EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Otago 38 - 7 WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Report
Wellington 20 - 42 TasmanWellington vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
Montpellier 23 - 3 Stade FrancaisMontpellier vs Stade Francais Report
La Rochelle 26 - 29 Bordeaux-Begles
Clermont Auvergne 43 - 12 LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Report
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath314
2Saracens313
3Northampton311
4Exeter310
5Leicester Tigers39