It is three down and two to go for Wales, who this week head to BT Murrayfield looking to move one step closer to the Grand Slam.
Warren Gatland has never lost to Scotland as Wales coach, but two years ago the Welsh did come unstuck at BT Murrayfield while he was away on British & Irish Lions duty.
That was part of a long unbeaten Scottish run at BT Murrayfield, one that ended against Ireland in Round Two of the Guinness Six Nations, and having since fallen to France in Paris, Gregor Townsend will be after a response.
To do so, he has rung the changes with the return of Finn Russell perhaps the biggest news. The Racing 92 fly-half is back fit again and slots in alongside former Glasgow Warriors teammate Ali Price, promoted to start at scrum-half ahead of Greig Laidlaw.
That means that Stuart McInally will captain the team, as he did twice in 2018. Other notable returns see WP Nel start at tighthead, looking to boost a Scottish scrum that at time struggled in Paris, while Hamish Watson is back on the bench hoping for his first appearance of the Championship.
It will be a landmark day for a pair of Scotland players, Tommy Seymour and Jonny Gray celebrating their 50th
appearances for their countries.
Gatland, in contrast to Townsend, has stuck with virtually the same team that got the better of England in Round Three.
The only change is injury-enforced, Adam Beard coming in for the injured Cory Hill in the second row, while on the bench Jake Ball steps in as lock cover.
The teams will be playing for the Doddie Weir Cup, the second time they have played for the trophy in honour of the great Scotland and Lions second row who is currently battling Motor Neurone Disease.
WHAT THEY SAID
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said:“Getting to 50 caps for your country is a milestone in a player’s career and it underlines the consistency and quality both Tommy and Jonny have delivered for Scotland over the years.
“Tommy has started all his games and has an impressive try-scoring record, which is fundamental element of the game for a winger.
“As well as his finishing ability, his excellent work-rate off-the-ball and outstanding aerial skills have been the key reasons why he’s reached a half century of appearances for Scotland.
“Jonny is an exceptional player who came through as a young man and, by becoming the second-youngest player to win 50 caps, shows just how well he’s played in that relatively short time.
“He has a phenomenal work rate, is a very accurate tackler and takes real pride in helping the team prepare, as well as continually looking for ways to improve his own game.”
Wales coach Warren Gatland said:“They’re going to be tough. There’s no doubt that their record at BT Murrayfield has been very impressive and they are hard to beat there for any team.
“They’ll be disappointed and hurting from that performance last week against France in Paris. We are well aware of their threat.
“The players that were involved two years ago were pretty disappointed with that result and that performance. We’ve got a big challenge on our hands for a couple of reasons.”
KEY BATTLE – FINN RUSSELL V GARETH ANSCOMBE
The two fly-halves come from a similar mould with both keen to attack the line at every opportunity and gifted with great distribution. Russell is back after missing the clash in Paris, and looked very impressive in Racing 92’s win over La Rochelle in France last week.
Scotland are a different side with him pulling the strings, so Wales will be keen to shut him down.
In Anscombe, they have stuck to their convictions, with Gatland resisting the temptation to start Dan Biggar after his match-winning performance off the bench against England. The Cardiff Blues fly-half more than did his bit in that game though, and will be a real threat for the Scots both with his passing and running.
STATS – POWERED BY AWS
- Jonny Gray is second only to Stuart Hogg as the youngest Scotland player ever to 50 caps, marking the landmark five days before his 25th birthday. The youngest player ever to the mark will be on the opposite side, Wales’ George North who was 22 when he hit 50.
- Warren Gatland has never lost to Scotland in more than a decade as Wales coach. He did however lose on both trips to Scotland while in charge of Ireland
- Wales have now won 12 Tests in a row, their all-time record, that includes a win over Scotland at Principality Stadium in November for the Doddie Weir Cup
- Wales lock Adam Beard, who comes into the starting XV this week, has never lost a Test with now 11 caps to his name
There is plenty of value on both sides at BT Murrayfield, with one of the changes in the Scotland side seeing Darcy Graham earn his first start for his country. At just 10 stars, he could be a steal in the back three, while Finn Russell is another option at 13.9, particularly as he will take on kicking duties with Greig Laidlaw on the bench.
For Wales, their recent form means players are a little more expensive, but Adam Beard is just 10.7 stars as he comes back into the side at lock.
Elsewhere Gareth Anscombe, at 14.8 stars, is a little below the most expensive fly-halves in the game and could be an intriguing possiblity.
Play the Guinness Six Nations Fantasy Game
Scotland: 15. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), 14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), 13. Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors), 12. Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors), 11. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), 10. Finn Russell (Racing 92), 9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), 1. Allan Dell (Edinburgh), 2. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) (c), 3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh), 4. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), 5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), 6. Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), 7. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), 8. Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks)
Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), 17. Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), 18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), 19. Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), 20. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), 21. Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne), 22. Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), 23. Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks)
Wales: 15. Liam Williams (Saracens), 14. George North (Ospreys), 13. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), 12. Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), 11. Josh Adams (Worcester), 10. Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), 9. Gareth Davies (Scarlets), 1. Rob Evans (Scarlets), 2. Ken Owens (Scarlets), 3. Tomas Francis (Exeter), 4. Adam Beard (Ospreys), 5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (c), 6. Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), 7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), 8. Ross Moriarty (Dragons).
Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee (Dragons), 17. Nicky Smith (Ospreys), 18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues), 19. Jake Ball (Scarlets), 20. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), 21. Aled Davies (Ospreys), 22. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints), 23. Owen Watkin (Ospreys).