A Scottish person once sang, “In a big country, dreams stay with you, like a lover’s voice on the mountainside.” This weekend that lover’s voice would be saying “please beat Wales you bastards”. In the pantheon of dreams, beating an injury riddled Wales team is not exactly Martin Luther King’s effort about racial harmony, it’s probably more in keeping with Lionel Richie’s about ‘people in the park, playing games in the dark’ – which sounds like dogging to us – but that of Lionel and that of Scotland are dreams nonetheless; will Scotland’s come true?
Wales open this year’s Six Nations at home, which helps. However, they have more injuries than an episode of M*A*S*H with a lot less comedy, which is less helpful. But, many a good thing comes out of standing on a burning platform, or you could just end up burning alive miles out to see. Warren Gatland will hope his team selection gives more of the former than the latter.
Reasons to be cheerful are the number of genuinely in form ball players that are in the backline, particularly given the club form for Scarlets of the likes of Parkes, Scott Williams, Patchell and Gareth Davies. Gatland has also ended up playing the Aviva Premiership’s top try scorer by a process of last man standing, which may again work. Unless it doesn’t, because whatever the personnel the Kiwi Cuboid Coach is not known for letting creative ability do the talking.
Up front is the where the issues may come for Wales. An only just back to fitness Ross Moriarty is asked to fill the shoes of the irreplaceable Faletau, the honest but limited Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi make up the rest of the back row. No-one having a flutter at William Hill should fancy their chances in the loose or at the breakdown against the wily and combative John Barclay and Hamish Watson. Also, as a co-Scarlet, Barclay has a spy in the camp advantage.
Scotland have arguably the most irresistible backline in Europe, even with the selection of Chris Harris being something out of leftfield. Townsend knows how he wants to play, so Harris coming in will no doubt be due to him bringing more snazz and pizazz in the eyes of the coach.
The front row is so depleted that they numbers are being made up by people coming out of chippies in rural borders towns, but if Scotland can simply hold themselves up against a decent but not dominating Wales eight, then that will keep them well in the game.
A fabulous game beckons; but Scotland have surely had enough of being talked about for their play rather than the result. They may just get one on Saturday, but then again, other Scottish person (or two) also sang “my heart was broken. Sorrow, sorrow”. They know plenty about that, this weekend is the time to sing a different tune.