The need to move “up to another level” in all aspects is what has driven five changes in the Scotland team for Wales despite last week’s Calcutta Cup triumph.
Head coach Gregor Townsend has never shirked from changing a winning team – any team really – and he’s done it again. The two front rows swap from England with the Edinburgh trio of Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally and WP Nel starting.
Skinner and Tuipulotu come in
Your Scotland team for Saturday’s @SixNationsRugby clash with Wales has been confirmed.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 10, 2022
Sam Skinner is the choice to replace Jamie Ritchie, who is confirmed as out for the championship and probably the rest of the season with a hamstring tear. The additional change is Sione Tuipulotu in midfield for his Glasgow team-mate Sam Johnson.
Johnson is the only man to drop out of the 23 for England entirely on a form choice. Rory Darge and Cam Redpath are brought into the replacements.
Scotland were delighted by the 20-17 win over England but there’s plenty of scope for improvement, said Townsend.
“There’s lots of areas (to improve),” he said. “We didn’t get our setpiece attack going at the weekend. We need to show more accuracy there to get in our phases and allow our decision makers to play in the right areas.
“There’s more to do there in and around our maul, our defence. Likewise with our scrum – we didn’t get a lot of opportunity to scrum at the weekend. We also think our defence can improve.
“We were happy with a few aspects of our play but we can go up another level this week.”
‘He’s a very creative player, we love that’
On fire 🔥
Ahead of this afternoon's #URC clash with Connacht, check out Sione Tuipulotu's stats from the season so far in this week's Player Focus 💪
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) January 29, 2022
Tuipulotu has impressed for Glasgow this year, and the Australian-born 24-year-old offers a different skillset to Johnson and Redpath.
“He’s a very creative player, we love that about him,” said Townsend. “Very detailed as well. He can bring others into play and he’s got his own running game which he has shown for Glasgow this season.
“All those things will be important but defence is No 1. When you come into our side and our midfield you know you have to defend very well. He’s been doing really well in training.”
Scotland should be better equipped to deal with Cardiff than they have been in the past, notably in their last Six Nations visit in 2018, he added.
“We’ve not been there for four years and a lot has happened in that time,” he said.
“This team has had experiences against top sides home and away and shown resilience in those games. We’ve not won them all, but I believe the tests we had in Paris and Twickenham sets us up for a great challenge this week with a full stadium, in one of the best venues in the world.”
Wales will react positively, says Townsend
• Team Announcement •
Here's your Wales squad to face Scotland in the second round of the #GuinnessSixNations.
➥Bydd Jac Morgan, blaenasgellwr y gweilch, yn gwneud ei ymddangosiad cyntaf yn erbyn yr Alban dydd Sadwrn yma yn stadiwm y Principality.#WALvSCO
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) February 10, 2022
Townsend expects a big reaction from Wales after their heavy defeat in Dublin.
“You’re always better in your second game in a Six Nations,” he said. “If you’re up against a top side like Ireland with lots of momentum and playing away from home, you may struggle early on.
“But I felt in the second quarter and parts of the second half Wales were the equal to Ireland, they created chances, and showed their defence can get turnovers.
“We know they’ll be better than that game and they have great players throughout the XV.”
Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs); Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Chris Harris (Gloucester), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester); Finn Russell (Racing 92), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), WP Nel (Edinburgh); Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs); Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).
Replacements: George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Sutherland (Worcester), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors), Ben White (London Irish), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Cameron Redpath (Bath)