Scotland’s perceived weakness could be a strength in Cardiff because key players are desperate to become part of the new attitude in the national team, believes Ryan Wilson.
Wilson thinks the returning Jon Welsh, Gordon Reid and Scott Lawson will have big parts to play as Scotland seek to continue to overcome a front row crisis that’s been going on for over a year now.
Injuries forced the Scots to play the last two campaigns under Vern Cotter with relative novices Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson, then in the autumn they had to blood Darryl Marfo and Jamie Bhatti.
Despite the continuing problems with injuries and the perception the Scots are in bother in the front row – Wales have publicly stated they think they can attack Scotland there – it seems likely Gregor Townsend will be able to name an actually more experienced prop pairing for the NatWest Six Nations opener.
And Welsh and Lawson in particular are mustard keen to make an impact, said Wilson.
“We’ve got some front-rows in there who I really rate,” said the Glasgow skipper, who has recovered from an ankle injury. “Jon Welsh has been doing a brilliant job down at Newcastle, so has Scott Lawson.
“Guys like that coming in are hungry – they’ve not had a shot at international rugby for a few years and now they have got this chance.
“If you’re an outsider looking in at us you would be thinking, ‘I wish I was back in there because they’re doing really well’. You want to be part of a squad that’s on the up and doing well. That could be a key factor.
“Usually it is just the young guys on the computers in the analysis rooms but these guys are coming back in and you can see they are not going to mess it up.”
The gregarious Welsh in particular is “a great guy to have back in camp” said Wilson, and with a permanent base at the Oriam sports centre and the attached new hotel on campus, it’s easier to integrate or re-integrate players into the squad, he said.
“We have a good craic,” said Wilson. “We have a brilliant facility here and over at the hotel, where we have the whole of the top floor. The doors are always open for anyone to jump into each other’s rooms to scare whoever they want!
“It is a good set-up and we are spending a lot of time together. I think one of the most important things is time together off the field with each other, you get to know each other a bit better and you are willing to bleed for that man a bit more.”
Wilson last played in December in the European Cup game in Montpellier, but has taken full part in two weeks of intensive training and believes he is ready.
“I trained all last week, had a little hit-out on Friday in-house when we did some contact stuff, and then trained this week and feeling good,” he continued.
“It is really the more the high tempo brand of rugby, that was what last week was about. It was coming in and trying to stretch the players as much as possible, and then there was some contact stuff on Friday.
“Obviously we were worried about injuries because there have been so many so far but we still had a good bash out on Friday. “
Scotland have had just one away win outside Rome in the Six Nations in the 18 years since they last won in Cardiff in 2002, but the victory in Australia last summer was evidence that they can do it, believes Wilson.
“In the last Six Nations, we focussed on those home games because we had three of them, whereas this year we obviously only have the two so going away and picking up points away from home is going to be massive. And there is a squad here that believes we can do that – so it will be a must-win going down there.
“We have been focusing on ourselves. They still have a pretty strong team despite their injuries.
“But listen they can put out who they want. We are going to go down and try and beat them either way.”