Telfer stifles Scots' glee

Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

In the euphoric aftermath of Scotland's whirlwind victory over France, it was one of their selectors' easier decisions to maintain an unchanged team for the third leg of a would-be Grand Slam against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday week.

However, yesterday's announcement at Murrayfield is as far as the euphoria goes, since Jim Telfer, the Scottish 's director of rugby, immediately set about puncturing it. Never one to be too warm-hearted when icy realism will suffice, he declared that he had preferred Scotland's win in Ireland.

"Ten or 15 years ago, winning at home was run of the mill, so we shouldn't get carried away," he said. "I still think the performance in Ireland was more complete, away from home in bad conditions. We showed a lot of inexperience against France, almost to the point of naivety, and our opponents around the world will have seen that."

Telfer, illustrious former captain and coach, is patently uncomfortable with Scotland being favourites, especially after being in the handy position of no-hopers after the inadequate previous performances against Western Samoa and Italy. Hence yesterday's rather grudging assessment of his players' achievements so far and his contrasting commendation of the Welsh for their effort in defeat at Twickenham.

"Wales took more out of the game than England," he said. "There is a new coach with a new team, and if I were in Kevin Bowring's position I would like to have a decent performance and then unleash my new team at home. The Welsh seem to have no inhibitions; some of them don't seem old enough to have nerves."

Telfer conceded that the Scots' comparative ignorance about the Welsh team and tactics was not blissful, although he has already identified whence the main threat will come. "If you don't know the opposition, you have to have your worries. They don't have a pattern of play and that can be used to advantage. A lot of focus has been on Arwel Thomas, but to me the boy [Robert] Howley played very well."

To which Douglas Morgan, the former scrum-half who has metamorphosed from Scotland to Scotland A coach, added that Howley was "another Van der Westhuizen". Which is a bit like burdening Thomas - or his Scottish opposite number Gregor Townsend - with being the new Jonathan Davies. In both cases, the suggestion has been made.

SCOTLAND (v Wales, Cardiff, 17 February): R Shepherd; C Joiner (both Melrose), S Hastings (Watsonians), I Jardine (Stirling County), M Dods; G Townsend (both Northampton), B Redpath (Melrose); D Hilton (both Bath), K McKenzie (Stirling County), P Wright (Boroughmuir), S Campbell (Dundee HSFP), G Weir (Melrose), R Wainwright (West Hartlepool, capt), E Peters (Bath), I Smith (Gloucester). Replacements: K Logan (Stirling County), C Chalmers (Melrose), G Armstrong (Newcastle), P Burnell (London Scottish), J Hay (Hawick), S Murray (Edinburgh Academicals).

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