Six Nations Rugby Preview: Is Wales vs. Scotland The Battle Of The Wooden Spoon?

Richard O'HaganCorrespondent IIFebruary 11, 2011

Richie Gray was Scotland's outstanding performance against the French
Richie Gray was Scotland's outstanding performance against the FrenchDavid Rogers/Getty Images

Scotland take on Wales at Murrayfield in what could turn out to be the battle to avoid the wooden spoon.


Scotland didn't cover themselves in glory against France last weekend, whilst Wales lost at home to England for the first time since 2003.



Scottish overview


Scotland coach Andy Robinson was bullish after losing to France, pointing out that each of France's four tries came as a direct result of Scottish turnovers.


However, this ignores the fact that his side were badly outplayed and that France were so far ahead that they almost stopped playing for the last 20 minutes, allowing the Scots to score two free tries.



Scottish pack


The one area of their game that the Scots were not supposed to find problematic was the scrum, but they were absolutely destroyed by the French.


Euan Murray, supposedly one of the best props in the world, was completely overpowered and the experiment of playing Nathan Hines in the back row was a disaster.


The only redeeming factor was the outstanding performance of young second row Richie Gray, with captain Al Kellock not far behind him.


However, among the several changes expected for Saturday's clash, Richie Gray's doubtful status is the most troublesome.



Scottish backs


Scotland's main problem against France was that their backs were too slow moving the ball, too lateral in their running and tended to cough the ball up in the tackle.


Nick de Luca was particularly culpable and can count himself fortunate to get a second chance.


Joe Ansbro, on the other hand, was a revelation, running powerfully and taking intelligent lines.


Nikki Walker almost looked like a different player, as he was stronger and more forceful and could have a big role to play this weekend.



Welsh overview


It is hard to believe that Wales could play so badly for two games in a row.


They were particularly woeful against England, though, with Jamie Roberts almost anonymous, Shane Williams not much better and the back row missing in action far too often.


A vast improvement is needed this weekend.



Welsh pack


Former captain Ryan Jones gets the start at number eight as Andy Powell is injured, but otherwise, this is the same pack which began the game against England.


The front row started well in that game but faded, and only the mercurial Bradley Davies can say he actually played for the whole game.


Dan Lydiate can think himself particularly lucky to retain his place on the blind side, especially as the retention of Hines by the Scots would suggest that this was a more natural opportunity to return Jonathan Thomas to the fold.



Welsh backs


The big move for the Welsh is to bring James Hook forward to fly half, where he finished the game in Cardiff. It is a gamble, especially as they have been forced to retain Mike Powell at scrum half despite his awful showing against the English.


Injury to Dwayne Peel means that uncapped youngster Tavis Knoyle is the scrum half replacement, and if he is forced on, expect Hook to give way to Stephen Jones, too.


Wing Morgan Stoddart faces a late fitness test on a broken bone in his hand, so there could be a late change to the three quarter line.



Where the game will be won or lost


On paper, Wales have a much better back line, but both sides were so poor at the weekend that gauging just how well they will play on Saturday is almost impossible.


The packs are fairly evenly matched, so the game will turn on whether Wales play to their potential among the backs or simply show up.




A close game, but Wales win.