Scotland came through a wildly exciting match against Wales in the opening weekend of this year’s Six Nations with the full five points in the bag despite being pushed all the way by their inexperienced opponents.
Unfortunately for the current Calcutta Cup holders, they escaped from the match with more than the one scratch. Experienced lock Richie Gray has been ruled out of the rest of the competition with a damaged bicep, whilst back-rower, Luke Crosbie faces the same fate with a shoulder injury. Grant Gilchrist and Sam Skinner are expected to replace the two injured players.
Scotland head coach, Gregor Townsend said after the recent match: “A lot of the boys are disappointed. We’re trying to say to them: this is a really important win. An important win for the next few weeks of the championship, but also in terms of not winning here for so long.
“But we were disappointed with the game getting so close at the end, and it could have gone either way, with the momentum that Wales had in that second half.
“The penalty count got against us. That was clearly the case. I think it was 16 penalties to four. Wales weren’t penalised once in the second half … So that pressure will tell. It’ll tell with territory … and then we were down to 14 men on two occasions. Look, there’s more to it than that, but that put the pressure on us. Within that period we maybe didn’t make the best decisions, more in defence, because we didn’t have much of the ball.
“And Wales also played really well. I thought they were very good in the close-quarter exchanges and in the maul. And they got very close to winning the game.
“The atmosphere was tremendous. You heard lots of Scots in that first half. And they were willing us on in that last two minutes, when we were on the Wales try-line. But the Wales crowd was amazing when Wales got back into the game.”
Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach, added: “It was such a disappointing first half. I thought we were absolutely terrible. Our discipline was poor … the lineouts, we had no tempo.
“I wanted to go in the game with some pace and to play some rugby. So the message was, we created a lot of that stuff. Half time, it was: ‘Let’s go out there and play some rugby and play with a bit of tempo.’ Fortunately we were able to do that second half. We got ourselves back into the game, and we were probably a bit unlucky at the end.
“We were just so slow in that first half. It’s a bit hard in terms of the speed, and cleaning rucks, and getting in position. I said at half time, the ball is so slow, the only thing we can do at the moment is kick it. Which we did do. I said: ‘We need to go and play some rugby.’ That’s the way we’d been working hard in training. Whether we gave Scotland too much respect in that first half, I’m not sure.
“A game like that, you can sort of throw the towel in, lick your wounds and think about next week. But the boys showed some character.
“It’ll be massive [for this young Wales team]. They [Scotland] were fully loaded. They were probably at their strongest. So I think we’ll learn a lot from today, and hopefully it’s a good stepping stone for those young players.”