Pride on the line for Wales and Scotland in Cardiff
March 14, 2014
Wales' Jonathan Davies will hope to impress on Saturday © Getty Images
It was not meant to be like this for Wales. Heading into the tournament, their last round game against Scotland was meant to be a celebration as they secured their third Six Nations title in as many years. But Wales have lost two from four in the championship and will playing for little more than pride come Saturday.
Wales have endured a difficult week off the back of their loss to England last Sunday. Gethin Jenkins has spoken out about how he feels targeted by the referees and Leigh Halfpenny has been ruled out for up to four months with a dislocated shoulder. Wales can still end the championship on a high, a key morale boost ahead of a gruelling Test series in South Africa come June, but there will be some weary bodies standing on the Cardiff turf come the full-time whistle on Saturday.
Warren Gatland has alluded to post-British & Irish Lions tour fatigue as one reason behind Wales' mediocre performances in this season's Six Nations but Alun Wyn Jones has refused to blame their inability to secure a third straight title on tiredness.
Regardless of the various reasons being thrown around, Wales are still favourites heading into Saturday's game. Scotland came agonisingly close to defeating France last weekend but lost out to a last-gasp penalty. They too have come in for plenty of criticism during this season's Six Nations with just one win to their name but with Vern Cotter coming in at the end of the season and Scott Johnson moving upstairs in the Scottish Rugby Union, Scotland will look to this championship as one of transition.
Jamie Roberts made plenty of dents last Sunday for Wales and still gives them essential go-forward. Wales' back-row has also performed well with Dan Lydiate putting in 15 tackles against England last Sunday. Although he missed their last match, Luke Charteris is also playing superbly.
For Scotland, their centre partnership of Matt Scott and Alex Dunbar is paying dividends while their back-row has a more settled feel with David Denton at No.8 and Kelly Brown at openside.
Out of form
Wales' half-backs Rhys Priestland and Rhys Webb struggled to find a tempo against England last Sunday so Warren Gatland has brought in two new faces. With Priestland dropped to the bench, Dan Biggar gets his chance to impress and with Webb injured, Mike Phillips starts. A lot of attention will also be given to the front-row with Jenkins having the unwanted record of being sin-binned twice in Wales' four matches this championship.
Scotland's Duncan Weir will feel he has a point to prove after gifting France an intercept try last weekend and the team will also want to improve their penalty record.
Key area to watch
Keep an eye on the fullback battle. With Halfpenny injured, Liam Williams will hope to take his chance against the fleet-footed Stuart Hogg.
Wales will finish the tournament on a high winning by about 15 points.
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.