Gatland launches verbal grenade
February 10, 2010
The roof at the Millennium Stadium will be open for Wales' Six Nations clash with Scotland this weekend © Getty Images
Wales boss Warren Gatland has launched a scathing attack on Six Nations rivals Scotland ahead of their Millennium Stadium showdown this weekend.
Scotland have requested that the stadium roof be kept open for the game - a decision that has irked Gatland who has hit back back accusing Andy Robinson's side of being predictable. For the roof to be closed - as it was throughout Wales' autumn Test series this season - both teams must agree but now the roof must be open no later than three hours before kick-off, although it can remain closed until Saturday morning.
Gatland, whose side lost to England in their Championship opener, believes that Scotland's request is an indication of their likely gameplan as they also look to bounce back from defeat at the hands of France. "I think, with (Dan) Parks at 10, they will probably kick to the corners," he said. "(Chris) Cusiter will box-kick a lot and (Sean) Lamont will carry the ball in midfield. They've asked for the roof to be open, so you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what we are expecting.
"We are expecting the ball to be kicked a lot or put up in the air. England got a bit of success against us last weekend - (Jonny) Wilkinson only passed the ball five times. England tried to run it against us early on but got nothing out of it, and then they resorted to a bit of pick and go and box-kicking.
"The ball was in (Wales centre) James Hook's hands 23 times, compared to (England centre) Mathew Tait touching the ball three times in the game. If you are Scotland, you are probably looking at it and saying they expect us to defend strongly and for Cusiter and Parks to put the ball into the air or into the corners; Euan Murray will come in to make their scrum a bit stronger and hopefully it's a day in Cardiff when it is pouring down with rain.
"To me, at this time of the year, if it's dry on the weekend and it's sunny and Scotland want the roof open, I understand that. But if it is raining, I cannot understand why you would have a roof and not close it. I think we've got a responsibility to the game, public, media and sponsors that if it's raining and you've got a roof to be closed, let's close it. We need some sanity, so at least we can see some positive rugby. Why play in the rain and wet if you don't have to?"
Scotland have failed to score a try in their last three Tests - against Australia, Argentina and France - or the last three Six Nations games, when Ireland, England and France shut them out. And the Scots average barely one try per Six Nations match when Cardiff Blues-bound Parks has started in the fly-half role.
Throw in a record of only three wins from 25 Six Nations away starts - it is almost four years since Scotland claimed a tournament victory on the road - then Wales justifiably start as firm favourites. And Gatland knows Wales possess the players to inflict damage, especially in a back division that boasts a combined Test tally of 84 touchdowns.
"It is about us being smart in terms of our decision-making," he added. "I spoke to a lot of the England players after the game and, when we had got back to 20-17 down, they felt the momentum was with us and that we were going to win the game.
"We want to move the ball and run the ball and play some positive rugby, and we want to do that on the front foot. Last Saturday, when we got anything past fourth or fifth phase, it was when we put England under real pressure."
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup