Wales eye second leg of Triple Crown
February 10, 2012
Wales' George North was in sensational form against Ireland last weekend © Getty Images
Wales will be hoping they can keep their Grand Slam hopes alive when they tackle an under-fire Scotland at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday.
Question marks surrounding Wales' title credentials vanished last weekend as they rode their luck on their way to a dramatic 23-21 victory over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium that could well prove to be the first step towards the Triple Crown and a Championship clean sweep. In contrast, Scotland's woes were all too familiar as their mis-firing back division contributed to their disappointing 13-6 loss at the hands of England that had many writing off the rest of their campaign.
Scotland's recent record against the Welsh offers little hope of a reversal in fortune with their last win against their celtic rivals coming five years ago while they have not tasted success in Cardiff since 2002. In addition, they have been forced into some significant changes in the last few days following playmaker Dan Parks' decision to retire from international rugby in the wake of his much-criticised showing at Murrayfield. But Wales have had to fill a sizeable void of their own with lock Bradley Davies handed a seven-week suspension following his side's Dublin triumph.
The game will also offer two rising stars of the game to showcase their skills once again with Wales wing George North and Scotland flanker David Denton sure to have say in how this game pans out.
Wales - Player to Watch: Winger George North was in sensational form in Dublin - can Scotland shackle the giant wing on his own patch?
Wales - Team News: Former skipper Ryan Jones will take the place of banned lock Bradley Davies with Dan Lydiate returning from injury to reclaim the blindside berth. Prop Gethin Jenkins has also shaken off a knee injury and returns at loose-head at the expense of Rhys Gill who drops out of the squad. The bench also includes 24-year-old uncapped Scarlets lock Lou Reed.
Scotland - Player to Watch: After an impressive cameo last weekend and the surprise retirement of Dan Parks, Greig Laidlaw is handed his first Test start in the playmaker role.
Scotland - Team News: The promotion of Laidlaw from the bench is one of two changes to the side that came up short against England. Elsewhere, Edinburgh prop Geoff Cross has been recalled in place of Newcastle tight-head Euan Murray, who does not play on Sundays for religious reasons. Uncapped Glasgow Warriors trio Ed Kalman, Duncan Weir and Stuart Hogg have been named on the replacements' bench.
Trivia: Wales have begun a Championship with a pair of wins only three times since 1994 - and two of those campaigns (2005 and 2008) ended in Grand Slams.
Stats: Wales have lost just once to Scotland since 2003: 9-21 at Murrayfield in 2007, whilst Scotland have not triumphed on Welsh soil since 2002.
"The displeasing thing was a bit of a lack of discipline with the yellow card. We got out of jail, but we've won our first game of the tournament away from home."
"There is a distant relationship there with Kipling but I'm not sure what it is. I've been doing a bit of research because it was suggested to me I should learn the connection."
Prediction: A Wales side brimming with confidence will be too big and too strong for a Scotland team that will suffer once again for their shortcomings in attack.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Munster, No.8s, the imploding Australians, wonderful Glasgow and Lancaster's dilemma - it is Monday Maul time
As Ewen McKenzie exits stage left, the ARU remains under huge pressure, with CEO Bill Pulver feeling the brunt of Australian rugby's displeasure, Greg Growden writes
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the remarkable events in Brisbane and the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup
Following Saturday's shock announcement, we look at the highs and the lows of Ewen McKenzie's brief stint as Wallabies coach.