Rugby Union: Telfer puts Scotland in mood to attack

Five Nations' Championship: Scotland's coach in bullish form as Wales suffer late withdrawal of prop Young
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The Independent Online
IF HISTORY and the form book do not manage to convince anyone, then the late withdrawal of Dai Young from Wales' front row must go a long way to persuading fans that the heat will be on the Dragons at Murrayfield today, where a more confident Scotland will be looking to record their sixth win in seven matches on their own turf.

Young injured a calf muscle in training on Thursday and the decision to replace him with the Swansea prop Chris Anthony was taken at lunchtime yesterday. It leaves hooker Jon Humphreys as the sole member of the Wales front-five with any experience of Five Nations rugby.

No wonder Jim Telfer, the Scotland coach, was in upbeat mood and attacking mode as he looked forward to this afternoon's game. Despite having coached his team to just one victory in eight full Tests since he took charge last year, he insisted: "We have been very competitive against Wales in the last 10 years and we have generally come out on top. We certainly have no inferiority complex as far as Wales are concerned."

Having accounted for the Dragons he rounded on the politicians in the game saying: "What is more I would say there is more of a buzz up here than there has been in the past three or four years, simply because there has been so much politicking off the field. The public is sick of people pontificating about what should be done. They want to see players doing their stuff on the field."

Telfer in bullish mood is not someone to take into the game's china shop of administration and diplomacy. He clearly also wanted to strike a blow for the Celtic cause, especially in the light of what has gone on in Five Nations during the last 10 years.

England and France have won the championship four times each, compared with a solitary championship each for Scotland and Wales.

"I don't think there is that much difference between the teams," he said. "The Celtic nations are far less fearful of the other two than they were previously. We played reasonably well at the back end of last year and we have taken something from that. Normally we are an outside bet, but I think we have a reasonable chance of beating Wales."

That they do. Their pack will certainly give the Welsh plenty to think about. Young had been brought into the side by Graham Henry to beef up the scrummage, now Anthony, with just a handful of games for his club, must do the business.

Henry, the Welsh coach, singled out the Leslie brothers John (centre) and Martin (flanker), sons of former All Black captain Andy Leslie, as ones to watch in the Scotland team. "They are very good players with terrific qualities. I wish they were Welsh actually.

"Gregor Townsend is a proven player. When I was with Auckland Blues I made some inquiries about his availability for the Super 12s. We rate Townsend very highly in that part of the world."

Henry, who is making his Five Nations debut as a coach, is not exactly oozing confidence: "I'm a little nervous. There's so much tradition and history behind this tournament. It means so much to so many people."

Not least the 22 players in red shirts. If the pack can provide any sort of platform against the very competitive Scots, then the Wales backs will certainly threaten. While Matthew Robinson on the left wing is an unknown at this level, there is no denying his blistering pace.

The Wales centres Allan Bateman and Scott Gibbs will give their counterparts John Leslie and Townsend a hard time. According to Bateman, Gibbs is better than ever. "Scott has always been the fulcrum of the back line since I came back to Wales," he said.

"He's a mammoth of a man. A great player. But there is something extra in his game this year. I can't quite put my finger on it, but he is really flying. He is back on the boil."

Whether this condition is infectious enough to spread to the rest of the side is another matter. The only certainty is that this match is not a foregone conclusion.

SCOTLAND v WALES

at Murrayfield

G Metcalfe Glasgow Cal 15 S Howarth .Sale

C Murray Edinburgh Reivers 14 D James Pontypridd

G Townsend Brive 13 A Bateman Richmond

J Leslie Glasgow Cal 12 S Gibbs Swansea

K Logan ....................................Wasps 11 M Robinson Swansea

D Hodge Edinburgh Reivers 10 N Jenkins Pontypridd

G Armstrong Newcastle, capt 9 R Howley Cardiff, capt

T Smith Glasgow Cal 1 D Morris Swansea

G Bulloch Glasgow Cal 2 J Humphreys Cardiff

P Burnell London Scottish 3 C Anthony Swansea

S Murray Bedford 4 I Gough Pontypridd

D Weir Newcastle 5 C Wyatt Llanelli

P Walton Newcastle 6 C Charvis Swansea

E Peters ......................................Bath 7 M Williams Pontypridd

M Leslie Edinburgh Reivers 8 S Quinnell Llanelli

Referee: E Morrison (England). Kick-off: 4.15 (BBC1)

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