Up till final Saturday Scotland had solely ever received three of their opening video games within the Six Nations. This weekend, in opposition to Wales, they’ve the chance to make it two from two for the primary time ever within the Six Nations and extra importantly, put themselves in a wonderful place within the Championship heading into the primary fallow week.
Each groups know one another nicely having performed their concluding match of the 2020 Six Nations in opposition to one another only some months in the past, and though the sport wasn’t the show of classic attacking rugby that many would have hoped for, from a Scotland perspective it was a vastly important victory, significantly up entrance the place Scotland defended resolutely all through the 80 minutes and edged the set-piece battle at scrum and lineout.
The set-piece will play one other necessary function at BT Murrayfield on Saturday. Scotland have been just about on prime within the scrum once they received in Llanelli within the autumn and so they’ll wish to impose themselves there once more this weekend however the Welsh entrance row affords a formidable problem, with Wyn Jones at loosehead, Tomas Francis again at tighthead and Ken Owens within the center. I’ve recognized Ken for plenty of years, taking part in in opposition to him each for Glasgow and Scotland. He’s an excellent hooker, good across the park, a robust scrummager and an excellent lineout operator. His battle this weekend with George Turner might have an enormous bearing on which staff come out victorious.
The scrum efficiency in opposition to England on the weekend was good, profitable all of our personal ball, however I do know the boys can have regarded again and reviewed it with scrum coach Pieter de Villiers and seen loads of room to get even higher. We misplaced the pace battle on engagement at instances. Win this and you’re in an important place to generate go ahead at scrum time, lose it and all shouldn’t be misplaced however it requires actual self-discipline and togetherness as an eight post-engagement to get again into form. Scotland have put an enormous quantity of labor into this space during the last yr and it’s no coincidence that Scotland have now turn into top-of-the-line scrums on the earth. Saturday is one other nice alternative to reinforce this status.
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The lineout may even be a key battleground. Once more, it was one other space that went nicely final weekend down in London for Scotland whereas Wales struggled in opposition to Eire. Jonathan Humphreys, the Wales forwards coach, spent a whole lot of time on lineout throughout his spells with Scotland after which at Glasgow and I’m positive he can have spent additional time on it this week in coaching, particularly whenever you see the specter of Scotland’s defensive lineout.
Not having Jamie Ritchie, Cam Redpath and Sean Maitland obtainable is an enormous loss for Scotland, all three have been key gamers final week in opposition to England. Jamie is without doubt one of the defence leaders within the staff and his absence can have been missed this week. On the floor, he was in all probability outshone by the opposite two boys within the again row final week however the work he does across the breakdown on either side of the ball and the management and organisation he brings to Scotland’s defence has made him a assured starter during the last 18 months.
Blade Thomson is available in for him at blindside flanker and though he’s not fairly a like-for-like alternative he’ll convey his personal physicality and skillset to the function. Blade was excellent in defence in opposition to Wales in Llanelli and was top-of-the-line defenders in the entire autumn marketing campaign. He’s additionally a robust ball provider with the power to dump, particularly within the huge channels, and is one other glorious possibility on the lineout.
It’s additionally disappointing to lose Cam after his excellent debut final week however sadly that’s the character of Check match rugby and the Six Nations – it’s brutal. Let’s hope he’s match for later within the match. James Lang, his alternative at 12, is equally as robust defensively and has a superb talent set on the ball having performed at ten earlier than.
Sean Maitland additionally performed nicely final week. His harm is a blow however with Darcy Graham coming in to interchange him Scotland have some of the impactful wingers within the Six Nations so as to add to their embarrassment of riches within the again three.
Wales have been going by means of transition below Wayne Pivac and you’ll see from each sport they play they’re getting extra fluency into their assault. At instances they attacked nicely in opposition to Eire, however this stuff don’t occur in a single day, and Scotland should look to close down their area and sluggish the ball as much as suffocate Wales’ assault.
A packed BT Murrayfield has been a fortress for Scotland in current seasons. The assist from the gang is immense. Strolling out the tunnel you’re hit with a wall of noise. It doesn’t matter what number of instances you get to do it; it all the time raises the hairs on the again of your neck and provides you a sense of invincibility. It will likely be a special problem this week with no crowd however a problem I do know the boys will relish and meet head on.