Wales and Scotland meet on Saturday in a crucial game to both countries’ Guinness Six Nations title aspirations.
Defending champions Wales cannot afford another defeat after being beaten by Ireland last weekend, while Scotland will target further success following an impressive Calcutta Cup win against England.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some key talking points heading into the Principality Stadium encounter.
Wales need a rapid response
It is 15 years since Wales lost their opening two games of a Six Nations campaign, but an in-form Scotland are tipped by many to inflict further misery on Wayne Pivac’s team after a dismal 29-7 defeat in Ireland last weekend. Wales simply must deliver a response, or any hope of mounting them a meaningful title defense will effectively disappear without trace. Head coach Pivac has credit in the bank following last season’s tournament triumph, and injuries to several key players have not helped him this term, but Wales were abject in Dublin, and a 74,000-capacity Principality Stadium crowd will expect a huge improvement.
Scotland’s 20 years of hurt in Cardiff
Brendan Laney and Duncan Hodge kicked injury-time penalties to give Scotland a 27-22 victory in the Welsh capital on April 6, 2002 – and they have not won there since. Eight successive Six Nations defeats, a World Cup warm-up loss and an autumn international reversal – with a total of 251 points granted – add up to a lengthy tale of woe. Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend was fly-half when Wales were defeated in just the third season of Six Nations rugby, with his team-mates including skipper Bryan Redpath, wing Kenny Logan and number eight Simon Taylor. Current form suggests a repeat outcome is on the cards.
Finn Russell could cause havoc
Scotland’s fly-half magician does not require a second invitation to cast his spell on opposition teams, and Wales know he poses them an immense threat. The Welsh defense has had its issues this season, with 17 tries conceded in five Tests, including four against Ireland last Saturday when Garry Ringrose and company enjoyed a field day probing and exploiting space. Wales know they must tighten up defensively, but Russell’s confidence is sky-high following the Calcutta Cup success six days ago, and it could be a very long afternoon for Pivac’s men if he takes center stage.
Dan Biggar joins Test rugby’s 100 club
Captain Biggar will clock up his 100th Test match appearance for Wales and the British and Irish Lions in Saturday’s game. He will become the ninth Welshman to achieve that feat, following Alun Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, George North, Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams, Gareth Thomas, Adam Jones and Leigh Halfpenny, and it is another highlight during an outstanding international career that began when Wales played Canada in Cardiff more than 13 years ago. Wales center Jonathan Davies will also reach three figures if he features off the replacements’ bench this weekend, and both players can expect rapturous acknowledgment.
Breakdown battle an intriguing contest
Wales are fully aware of the threat posed to them by Scotland flanker Hamish Watson. Last season’s Six Nations player of the tournament has made a remarkable 163 tackles without missing one – a record for the competition – and he is sure to be at the heart of his team’s victory bid. The all-important breakdown contest will see Wales fielding two openside specialists against him in Taine Basham and new cap Jac Morgan, and it will be fascinating to see whether the master or apprentices come out on top.