Clem Thomas says that Wales were outclassed in the forward exchanges

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The Independent Online
AFTER three heavy defeats, Wales will depart for the World Cup in May with about as much cheer as those forebears who were transported to New South Wales. Scotland, however, have much to look forward to, in particular the Grand Slam shoot-out at Twickenham.

Who would have thought, after the Springboks demolished them in the autumn, that Scotland would be in this position? Anyone suggesting as much would have been dismissed as having had one too many drams.

Those egg-splattered critics who consigned Gavin Hastings to the old people's home forgot that he is one of the great rugby players, competitive and inspirational at all times. Once again, we saw him stiffen and inspire the Scottish resolve. Hastings is expected to retire after the World Cup when he will move on to other fields where he is likely to be a winner again.

Robert Norster, the Welsh team manager, said afterwards that Wales had lost their self- belief. "We live in a village and we create an intensity which can cut against us. We have to learn the lesson of yet another defeat at Murrayfield."

Welshmen may claim that the game turned on a decision by the referee not to play an advantage when Wales were certain to score a try on the narrow side after half an hour. Soon after, Evans was isolated in a tackle in the Scottish 22 which culminated in a tremendous counter- attack for Eric Peters' try.

The truth was Wales were not good enough. They failed to close the gaps in the line-out, failed in the matter of ball retention, were constantly turned in the rucks and, worst of all, they lacked fire. By comparison, the Scottish pack, with Rob Wainwright making another immense contribution, were far too canny in the loose play for the robotic Welsh forwards.