Six Nations preview: Wales vs. Scotland

Wales vs. Scotland

Saturday, kick-off 16:50

Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Wales welcome Scotland to Cardiff on Saturday evening unbeaten, and arguably favourites to win this year’s Six Nations, but with their Grand Slam and Triple Crown hopes in tatters. Last weekend’s 16-16 draw against Ireland displayed the battling qualities of Warren Gatland’s side, and the New Zealander will hope that a more cohesive attacking display can help his side banish the frustration of their Dublin stalemate. Scotland are yet to beat the Welsh under Gatland, and head to the principality on the back of a deflating home defeat to England on the opening weekend.

Team news

Gatland and Wales received a huge boost ahead of the second weekend after fly-half Dan Biggar was cleared to start against Scotland. Biggar was injured in the first minute against Ireland but has been European rugby’s form No.10 over the past 12 months. The only other change to the squad sees Gareth Anscombe — an 11th-hour injury casualty in Dublin — replace Alex Cuthbert on the bench. Centre Jonathan Davies will win his 50th cap.

Vern Cotter has made just one change to the side that lost 15-9 to England at Murrayfield, with Saracens centre Duncan Taylor coming in for the injured Matt Scott. Taylor, who has been in fine form for his club side this season, has been promoted from the replacements’ bench with veteran wing Sean Lamont taking his place there.

Wales: Williams, North, J. Davies, Roberts, James, Biggar, G. Davies; Evans, Baldwin, Lee, Charteris, Jones, Warburton (captain), Tipuric, Faletau.

Replacements: Owens, Jenkins, Francis, B. Davies, Lydiate, Williams, Priestland, Anscombe.

Scotland: Hogg, Maitland, Bennett, Taylor, Seymour, Russell, Laidlaw (captain); Dickinson, Ford, Nel, R. Gray, J. Gray, Barclay, Hardie, Denton.

Replacements: McInally, Reid, Fagerson, Swinson, Cowan, Hidalgo-Clyne, Weir, Lamont.

Key head-to-head

Jamie Roberts put in a mammoth 21 tackles against Ireland last weekend, with his ferociousness in defence a key component of Wales’ fightback from 13-0 down. Following the game he signalled his intention to correct Wales’ attacking deficiencies, a sentiment that should worry Scotland and incoming centre Duncan Taylor. He will need to be committed in defence while maintaining a composure with ball in hand, something that Scotland failed to do against England.

Key stats

*Scotland’s last visit to Cardiff ended in a 51-3 defeat. The seven-try romp was Wales’ biggest ever win against their Six Nations rivals.

*Wales have won all eight encounters with Scotland since Warren Gatland became head coach after the 2007 Rugby World Cup. In that time they have averaged 30.38 points per game against Saturday’s opponents.

*In all, Scotland have won just once against Wales in their last 13 attempts. Since the championship was expanded to six teams, the Scots have lost 12 of the 16 Six Nations encounters with Wales, winning three and drawing 28-28 in February 2001.

*Form guide: Wales – WWLLD Scotland – WLWLL

Odds

Not surprisingly, Unibet have installed the hosts as heavy favourites, pricing them at 9/50 to win. Scotland on the other hand are a much longer 4/1. George North, meanwhile, is 8/1 to repeat his two-try performances of two years ago, or 50/1 to bag a hat trick.

Fantasy players to watch

Dan Biggar and David Denton. If Wales run up a big win then Biggar — and his kicking tee — will be in for a busy afternoon. Scotland’s best chance of victory should come at the set piece, where Denton can be effective.

Prediction

Wales had plenty to work on after their Dublin draw, yet the positives were also clear to see and if they can cut out the small errors in attack then they should have too much for Scotland. It won’t be as one-sided as 2014, but Wales should still come out on top.

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/page/SixNations2016_Match5/six-nations-preview-wales-vs-scotland-warren-gatland-side-prepare-lift-off
Six Nations preview: Wales vs. Scotland
http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/page/SixNations2016_Match5/six-nations-preview-wales-vs-scotland-warren-gatland-side-prepare-lift-off
http://www.scrum.com/rss/rugby/story/feeds/0.rss
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