Gatland wields a heavy axe

Thu, 13 Mar 2014 12:38
Large gethin jenkins yellow card

Wales coach Warren Gatland made six changes to his side to play Scotland, as they look to finish the Six Nations with a flourish.

Wales coach Warren Gatland made six changes to his side to play Scotland, as they look to finish the Six Nations with a flourish.

Wales' 18-29 loss to England at Twickenham last Sunday ended their hopes of becoming the first side to win an unprecedented third successive Six Nations title.

Gatland responded by making changes across the team, although several are injury-enforced.

Three come in the backs with Liam Williams replacing Leigh Halfpenny following the star fullback's season-ending shoulder injury at Twickenham, while Mike Phillips comes in for scrumhalf Rhys Webb, who also suffered a knock against England.

But at flyhalf Dan Biggar makes his first start of the championship following Rhys Priestland's lacklustre display against England, with James Hook again left kicking his heels on the bench.

Up front, prop Gethin Jenkins will become Wales' most-capped player when he makes his 105th appearance, one more than former flyhalf Stephen Jones, although the veteran forward will hope to avoid a third successive yellow card after being sin-binned at Twickenham for failing to scrummage straight.

Jenkins is a member of a changed front row where Scarlets duo Rhodri Jones and hooker Ken Owens make their first starts of the Championship.

Luke Charteris returns from injury to partner Alun Wyn Jones in the second row with the rest of the pack unchanged.

Ospreys front row forwards Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones drop to the bench as does Priestland.

Defeats this season by Ireland and England, both vying for the title on Saturday, have led to accusations Wales are becoming too predictable a side when faced with major opposition.

Nevertheless they will still be favourites to beat a Scotland team seeking a first win in Cardiff since 2002 and whose lone success this tournament was a last-gasp win over Italy, although they were unlucky to lose 17-19 to France at Murrayfield last weekend.

Saturday's match will be former Wales coach Scott Johnson's last in charge of Scotland, with the Australian handing over to New Zealander Vern Cotter at the end of the season to concentrate solely on his role as Director of Rugby at the Scottish Rugby Union.

"Saturday is an opportunity for us to put in a performance we know we can and finish the Six Nations on a high," coach Warren Gatland said.

"Scotland will come looking to play some rugby and had a morale boosting win against Italy and were unlucky to lose against France in recent weeks.

"We will be looking for a more accurate execution this week to finish with a win at home in Cardiff."

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Paul James, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 James Hook.

Date: Saturday, March 15
Venue: s Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 14.45 (14.45 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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Team P W D L Pts
Ireland 5 5 0 0 26
Wales 5 3 0 2 15
Scotland 5 3 0 2 13
France 5 2 0 3 11
England 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 1