Ali Price asked to stop the Scotland rot and prey on Wales distractions

High wind buffeted the Wales squad as they flew to Edinburgh afternoon but it was nothing compared to the storm that has engulfed the Welsh game this week after a plan to shake it up, Project Reset, became Project Reject.

Wales are two steps from a grand slam and are seeking a 13th consecutive victory. Scotland, in contrast, are looking to avoid a third successive defeat in a Six Nations campaign for the first time since 2015 and when England visited Murrayfield last year on a run of seven wins they were well beaten.

“Wales have a good record against us and are in excellent form,” said the Scotland head coach, Gregor Townsend, who has made five changes, one positional, from the side that lost in Paris in the last round. “It’s a similar challenge to the one we faced last year against England. We found a way to win then and I firmly believe we can reach that level of performance once again on Saturday.”

Townsend has dropped his captain Greig Laidlaw for Ali Price, whose last start in the Six Nations was against Wales last year when he was replaced after 48 minutes as Scotland fell to a 34-7 defeat. With Finn Russell returning at outside-half after missing the France match due to concussion, the home side’s unpredictability factor will be enhanced, although the weather forecast is bleak.

“Ali started in our victory against Wales two years ago and in our home and away successes against Australia,” Townsend said. “He did not play as well for his club or country last year, but he has been in good form this season. It is a reflection on how he has been going rather than how Greig has been playing.

“We had two weeks to reflect on why things didn’t work in France. The fact that we’re out of the championship is a good time to see if Ali can help the team to win. Greig is determined to show that he should be starting and he has been very professional in the buildup. He is still a key leader and he gives us leadership on the bench. We know there is a big tournament on the horizon and we will see what happens after the World Cup. That tends to be the time when players reassess where they are and when the coaches assess what is next.”

Scotland lost against Ireland at home in the second round on an afternoon when their attacking game failed. Only two backs survive, Russell and the wing Tommy Seymour, with Townsend picking a team to have a go at the championship leaders. “We will do all we can to win,” he said. “We may be out of the running for the title, but we want to show a true picture of what we are capable of. It is time we delivered an 80-minute performance.”

Wales’s players started the week caught up in the speculation about whether the Scarlets and the Ospreys would merge. Martyn Phillips, chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, addressed them on Monday to allay any fears about job security with the head coach, Warren Gatland, admitting he could have done without the disruption.

“The start of the week was distracting, but since then we have focused on the job in hand,” the Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies said. “There is always gossip in Welsh rugby, but all that matters is going to a tough place to play and getting the win. It is about putting away the politics and concentrating on the rugby.

“There has been an edge in the camp since we returned from a day off and we know what is at stake. To win the grand slam, you have to beat every team you face and that means preparing as best you can. We have done that and we just want to get on with the game.”


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