Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Gatland wary of dogged Scots

Tournment favourites Wales will receive a little help from England when they begin their defence of the RBS 6 Nations title tomorrow.

Wales arrive at Murrayfield without injured centre Gavin Henson but knowing victory over an improving Scotland side would give them immediate momentum in the quest for back-to-back Grand Slams.

But Wales have triumphed just twice in Edinburgh since 1985, losing eight and drawing one of the subsequent 11 Tests.

If that statistic was not enough to concentrate Welsh minds, then a quick recall of England's Murrayfield implosions in 2000, 2006 and 2008 might just do the trick.

Assessing the mission, head coach Warren Gatland said: "We are very aware of how deep those (Scottish) guys dig in in terms of responding to challenges.

"I have vivid memories of a number of times when England have gone up there for Six Nations glory or been favourites to win the Calcutta Cup, and then come back having been beaten by a dogged Scottish side. We've got to keep reminding ourselves of that.

"We performed pretty well in the autumn Tests this season, but you can't say we are overwhelming (Six Nations) favourites.

"Normally, every Six Nations campaign, people talk about France or England being favourites and the Celts making up the numbers. But this year it is something different."

The Welsh head for the Scottish capital without Henson, who has succumbed to a calf muscle strain suffered during training earlier this week.

He was due to make his first international appearance since last season's Six Nations, but has been replaced by by Tom Shanklin, who forges an all-Cardiff Blues midfield partnership alongside Jamie Roberts.

Wales are unbeaten in the Six Nations since March 2007, and Gatland will embark on his second championship campaign knowing expectation levels have soared following last season's stunning Grand Slam success.

"We've weeded out a bit of the rubbish that was in the squad before," Gatland added, without naming names.

"And we've got a group of players that are working hard for each other and get on really well.

"They are honest when they get on the park, and they give 100%. I don't know if there are any special formulas - it's just about being honest. That is the key to it.”

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