Scotland think their ‘backing-up’ problem is mostly mental, so clarity about where they are is crucial to follow up the latest Twickenham triumph with a win over Wales.
It’s not just the Welsh that have been the issue, although it’s been them the last two years. Scotland have never won the first two games of a Guinness Six Nations.
The last time they won their two opening games of a championship was in the 1996 Five Nations, when the current head coach Gregor Townsend was instrumental.
‘There’s been a mix of factors’
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But WR stipulate HIA1 is not a diagnosis tool, and after passing HIA2&3 he is now available.
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Assistant coach Pieter de Villiers thinks mental skills coach Aaron Walsh, who joined the camp for the first time in the Autumn, could come into his own this week.
“Really, we probably shouldn’t dwell on the past too much,” said the former French international prop. “But I think there’s been a mix of factors.
“There could have been a bit of complacency at times. It could have been under-estimation of your opponent. Maybe the next opponent realises we are a good team – and so they up their game as well.
“It could be dwelling on that victory for too long, not moving on immediately to look at how we can get better. It’s a mix of all of those things.
“Maybe it’s also maturity. Maybe the team is a bit more mature this week and we will deal with it better.
“We’ve now got Aaron Walsh working with us. He can assist us with the mental preparation side of things. I think we’re better prepared to take this challenge on, whilst also still respecting our opponent.”
Wales looked in disarray in the first half of their opener against Ireland, but the Scots have paid more attention to the second half, said de Villiers.
“You look at the Welsh team, that second half was a draw, with the number one team in the world,” he said. “And . with a new management and new coaches.
“We know there is a lot of experience there as well, so there’s a lot to take in there. We have to make sure that we are ready to face a difficult side, as they have proven themselves to be in the past.”
‘He’s definitely up there with the best’
Zander Fagerson will be available for selection this week, but they have no doubts about WP Nel after his battling performance at Twickenham.
“WP was once again brilliant when the squad needed him,” continued de Villiers. “We sometimes need to manage him because he’s been around, but he’s definitely up there with best when it comes to set-piece experience and power.
“Zander is available for selection, so is Hamish (Watson). We’ve also got a lot of players in form in those two positions of loose-forward and front-row, so the competition will be stiff in those two departments.”
The Scots have lost back rower Andy Christie who has gone back to Saracens with a dead leg problem. Scott Cummings, who has made a gradual return from a foot injury sustained before November, has joined the squad but is unlikely to feature.
All the rest of the squad, including Stuart Hogg who was removed early at Twickenham, have trained normally.