Scotland coach Andy Robinson has a lot to think about this week. After a less-than-sterling performance against England last Saturday at Murrayfield, Robinson's Scottish side have little time to regroup and prepare for a strong Wales team coming off a second straight significant victory against Ireland.
Of the many tactical decisions facing Robinson and attack coach Gregor Townsend, none is more significant than the No. 10. After a stagnant first half against England, half-back Dan Parks had a clearance attempt that was blocked and resulted in the only try of the 13-6 loss. The 33-year-old Parks has since come under fire from both fans and former players.
As longtime Scotland captain Andy Nicol told the Scotsman yesterday, "The selection of Dan Parks at 10—for a specific reason, to get Scotland playing in the right areas—didn't work and I would say there was a bit of a spike when Greig Laidlaw came on."
In the days after the England loss, it has become assumed that Parks' time at the 10 is over for Scotland. While Robinson has remained relatively mute on the subject, Laidlaw's pace and creativity provided a spark for the Scotland attack and could remain a catalyst as the team prepares to travel to Cardiff for Sunday.
Waiting comfortably at home is a Welsh side that sustained an impressive performance throughout the back-and-forth affair in Dublin last weekend with strong efforts from George North, Leigh Halfpenny and Jonathan Davis. With a seemingly unstoppable three-quarter line, Scotland will need to eliminate costly mistakes and capitalize on opportunities.
Many around the team have advocated for an additional adrenaline shot of Stuart Hogg and Duncan Weir. Both looked tremendous at times in their 35-0 defeat of the England Saxons last week, with Hogg scoring a miraculous try and Weir turning in a fantastic second-half performance.
Whether Robinson chooses to include Hogg and/or Weir on Sunday's roster, the Scotland coach did receive positive news from the team doctor regarding several key players. Richie Gray, David Denton, Alastair Kellock, and Nick de Luca have all responded well to treatment this week and should be fully recovered by this weekend's contest in Cardiff.
For Scotland to win this Sunday, they must remember how close they came to winning against an inexperienced English side. If Ross Rennie timed his pass better after breaking through the line, if Parks had been able to clear the ball, if the TMO had ruled in Laidlaw's favor on a near-try, the Scots could easily have escaped on top.
With a healthy roster and a slight adjustment in the starting XV, Scotland could defeat Wales, but it won't be easy. Let's hope Robinson and his staff have them ready.