Match preview: Wales v Scotland, 6 Nations 2016

KO 4.50 at Principality Stadium, Saturday 13th February
Live on BBC 1

For the 16th time in the 17 seasons of 6 Nations action Scotland find themselves coming off the back of an opening weekend defeat into yet another challenging fixture. With Wales on an 8 game winning streak against the boys in blue things certainly aren’t getting any easier for Vern Cotter as he looks for his first ever victory in the tournament.

Teams

WALES
15 Liam Williams
14 George North
13 Jonathon Davies
12 Jamie Roberts
11 Tom James
10 Dan Biggar
9 Gareth Davies
HEAD-TO-HEAD
ADV Scotland
ADV Wales
EVEN
ADV Wales
EVEN
ADV Wales
EVEN
SCOTLAND
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Sean Maitland
13 Mark Bennett
12 Duncan Taylor
11 Tommy Seymour
10 Finn Russell
9 Greig Laidlaw (c)

1 Rob Evans
2 Scott Baldwin
3 Samson Lee
4 Luke Charteris
5 Alun Wyn Jones
6 Sam Warburton (c)
7 Justin Tipuric
8 Toby Faletau

ADV Scotland

EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Wales
EVEN
EVEN
EVEN
ADV Wales

1 Alasdair Dickinson
2 Ross Ford
3 WP Nel
4 Richie Gray
5 Jonny Gray
6 John Barclay
7 John Hardie
8 David Denton

16 Ken Owens
17 Gethin Jenkins
18 Tomas Francis
19 Bradley Davies
20 Dan Lydiate
21 Lloyd Williams
22 Rhys Priestland
23 Gareth Anscombe

ADV Wales

ADV Wales
ADV Wales
ADV Wales
ADV Wales
EVEN
EVEN
ADV Scotland

16 Stuart McInally
17 Gordon Reid
18 Zander Fagerson
19 Tim Swinson
20 Blair Cowan
21 S Hidalgo-Clyne
22 Duncan Weir
23 Sean Lamont

Overall
Backs – advantage Wales
There’s an edge to Wales in this area with Scotland’s backline suffering from a lack of recent game time and/or form that has been in the doldrums since the World Cup. Dan Biggar might be viewed as the key for Wales but last Sunday’s draw away to Ireland showed even the originator of the ‘Biggarena’ can be replaced.
Forwards – even
It’s likely to be a close run thing in the pack. The Scots may take the front row battle by the finest of margins (although the Welsh trio put in a powerful performance against Ireland). Elsewhere it’s tight battles all the way except at 8 where the outstanding Welsh forward of the past couple of years, Taulupe Falatau, will look to dominate the gain line.
Subs – advantage Wales
This is where it really falls down for Scotland. Wales can make 5 or 6 replacements with little or no drop off in quality from their starters but the away side cannot say the same and certainly don’t look to have any game-changers on their bench.

Team Talk
Big Vern Cotter only makes 1 injury-enforced change from the side that lost to England – although given Duncan Taylor’s early season form he may feel he has earned his slot. Consistency is also the watchword for Wales with the only change being Gareth Anscombe for Alex Cuthbert on the bench – reducing the likelihood of Welsh errors late on by a factor of 3.

Previous results
This will be the 9th time the 2 sides have met at the Principality / Millenium Stadium in the Six Nations with the head to head looking very ugly from Scotland’s perspective:

L W L L   L L L L

Most recent meeting in Cardiff:

Wales 51-3 Scotland

24 players return from that fixture – 15 for the home side and 9 for the visitors. 9 of the Welsh starting xv are the same as on that day with another 3 on the bench – Rhodri Jones, Phillips and Cuthbert the only players not returning. By contrast only 4 Scots who started in that shambolic performance are back for more 2 years later. 2014 and Hoggy’s horror show was the biggest margin of defeat for Scotland in 6 Nations history. Given they have only finished within a score of Wales once in the 7 defeats on Welsh soil the men in dark blue have a lot of work to do just to make this a competitive fixture.

Significant stats
Red cards:
Wales 0 Scotland 1
It was a game that was disfigured by a moment of madness from Stuart Hogg. After his departure in just the 22nd minute Scotland were completely unable to contain Wales (not helped by coach Scott Johnson’s bizarre decision not to use his replacement full back!) While the overall score line was impacted hugely by the sending off it has to be noted that Scotland were already 10-0 down by that point and looked to have little chance of the win even with 15 men.

Most of the match and player stats from that game just reflect the reality of a man advantage for almost an hour. Scotland had most of the territory and possession (64% and 68% respectively in the 2nd half) but were hitting up easily defended pick and goes. When Wales got the ball they were able to cut through at will making over 600 metres ball in hand as their backs ran wild. The Welsh also had to make 40% more tackles but it was the Scots who missed more as their defence was picked apart.

Officials:
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey (IRFU), Federico Anselmi (UAR)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)

After John Lacey last week (running the line for this game) it’s another familiar face for Scotland in the shape of Pro 12 whistler George Clancy. Mr. Clancy has refereed Glasgow on 10 occasions over the past 2 seasons so there should be no excuses for not knowing what to expect – fussy to the point of pedantry over certain technical offences but awards significantly less penalties and cards overall than the ‘average’ ref. He has been the man in the middle for 5 Scotland matches, of which they have won just a single game…

It’s worth noting that Scotland’s disciplinary record over the last decade in Cardiff has been appalling (thanks to Fiona Hunter for pointing this out):

  • 2006 – Red card. 58 minutes short-handed. 3 tries & 21 points conceded
  • 2008 – Yellow card. 10 mins short-handed. 0 tries & 0 pts
  • 2010 – 2 x YCs. 7 mins short-handed. 2 tries & 17 pts
  • 2012 – 2 x YCs. 18 mins short-handed. 2 tries & 17 pts
  • 2014 – RC. 58 mins short-handed. 6 tries & 41 pts

Overall Scotland have played a staggering 151 minutes (38% of total game time) at least 1 man down and conceded 13 tries and nearly 100 points. It is absolutely essential that they keep 15 men on the pitch and they must stay on Mr. Clancy’s good side!

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