6N Preview: Wales v Scotland

Fri, 10 Feb 2012 00:00
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Scotland are so confident of playing Wales at their own game in a Six Nations clash in Cardiff on Sunday, they've asked for the Millennium Stadium's roof to be closed in a bid to ensure ideal conditions.

Scotland are so confident of playing Wales at their own game in a Six Nations clash in Cardiff on Sunday, they've asked for the Millennium Stadium's roof to be closed in a bid to ensure ideal conditions.

Many pundits believe Scotland's best chance of winning in the Welsh capital for the first time in a decade is for them to play in the forecast rain, weather which has provided the backdrop to some of their most notable recent triumphs including a 2010 win over then world champions South Africa.

And they could, if they wanted, insist on this weekend's match being played in the open air as the standard protocol for Tests at the Millennium is that both sides must agree to the retractable roof being closed.

Wales, 23-21 winners away to Ireland in their tournament opener last weekend, are unlikely to have any qualms about playing 'indoors'.

But nor are Scotland, according to captain Ross Ford, even though their handling game let them down badly in decent conditions at Murrayfield during last Saturday's 6-13 loss at home to England.

"We've asked for the roof to be closed, so that guarantees us a nice dry ball to go out and play the way we want to," Ford said.

"We believe we've got the ability there to put pressure on Wales with the way we want to play and we'd prefer it if the roof was closed," the hooker added.

"We have had victories in the worst weather conditions, but I think you would be hard pressed to find a player who enjoys the wet and the cold.

"We're going down there with the intention of closing the roof and playing."

In Gregor Laidlaw, nephew of Scotland great Roy, the visitors will have a 'running' flyhalf in contrast to Dan Parks, who retired from international duty after the England defeat and was renowned for his ability to direct operations with the boot in the wet.

But Laidlaw will be looking to the forwards and scrumhalf Chris Cusiter to provide him with quick ball in a bid to spark a Scotland back division that, for all the talent of the Lamont brothers and Max Evans in particular, has now gone four games without a try.

"Greg for Edinburgh in the Heineken [European] Cup this year, everything that's been asked of him he's gone out and done it," Ford said. "That's the type of man he is.

"I'm sure he will carry on in the same vein down in Wales on Sunday."

World Cup semifinalists Wales will be firm favourites to win this weekend but the 27-year-old Ford added: "It is a big challenge, going down to Wales always is.

"Wales are coming off a good win in Ireland, but we believe we've seen enough from how Ireland played them and that we've got the ability in our squad to go down there and win.

"We've had a look at the video from Saturday and believe we've found areas we can sharpen up on and that will give us an edge in the way we're trying to play and to put Wales under pressure."

Players to watch:

For Wales: Ryan Jones, who was moved from blindside flank to lock in the place of banned second row forward Bradley Davies, will mean a very different role for the veteran and former captain. He needs to be his team's 'enforcer' against the hardy Scots. But there will also be plenty of focus on the Welsh backs - players like Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts and George North - who threatened last week, but struggled at times to break down the determined Irish defensive lines. Much is expected if a Welsh team that is fancied to win the 'Grand Slam' and it is all down to their exciting backs.

For Scotland: No doubt the departure (retirement) of an errant Dan Parks will shine the spotlight firmly on young Greig Laidlaw, who is touted as a running flyhalf. He is unlikely to have the same space and time he gets at club or franchise level, but he is an exciting prospect nonetheless. Last week David Denton, in a losing cause, was named Man of the Match, following a truly wonderful performance. Much is expected of this 22-year-old No.8, who was born in Zimbabwe and schooled at Kingswood College Grahamstown, South Africa, before he moved to Edinburgh University to study economics. He will have a tougher time against the lively Welsh loose forwards than the opposition provided by the plodding English last week.

Head to head: As in most games, the forward battle will lay the foundations, but the crucial decision makers are at halfback - where Wales have in Mike Phillips and Rhys Priestland two real gamebreakers, while Scotland will hope that Chris Cusiter and rookie Greig Laidlaw don't have an off day at the office. It will also be interesting to see how Ryan Jones (Wales) go against Richie Gray Scotland) - the latter a star in his own right in the second row, the former moved from blindside flank to lock to cope with the suspension of Bradley Davies.

Recent results:
2011: Wales won 24-6, Edinburgh
2010: Wales won 31-24, Cardiff
2009: Wales won 26-13, Edinburgh
2008: Wales won 30-15, Cardiff
2007: Scotland won 21-9, Edinburgh
2006: Wales won 28-18, Cardiff
2005: Wales won 46-22, Edinburgh
2004: Wales won 23-10, Cardiff
2003: Wales won 23-9, Cardiff
2003: Scotland won 30-22, Edinburgh

Prediction: Not only has it been a decade (the last time was 6 April 2002) since Scotland won in Cardiff, but they have beaten Wales just twice in their last 10 encounters. That tells the story of a dour Scottish history in the Six Nations. It is unlikely to change anytime soon. Wales to win by 10 to 15 points.

Teams:

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Ryan Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Lou Reed, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 James Hook, 22 Scott Williams.

Scotland: 15 Rory Lamont, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Sean Lamont, 11 Max Evans, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 David Denton, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford (captain), 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Ed Kalman, 18 Alastair Kellock, 19 John Barclay, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Duncan Weir, 22 Stuart Hogg.

Date: Sunday, February 12
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Cloudy with a few showers likely. High of 5°C, low of 3°C
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)

AFP & rugby365.com

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