Scotland fear Welsh backlash

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The Independent Online

Scotland coach Ian McGeechan has laughed off suggestions that his side will start as favourites in tomorrow's Lloyds TSB Six Nations clash of the crisis countries with Wales in Cardiff.

After three successive defeats, the visitors are hardly in the best of moods.

But Wales have been engulfed by the eligibility scandal and are also without a quartet of British Lions through a combination of injury and coach Graham Henry's brutal selection policy.

A repeat of Scotland's 16-14 triumph on their last visit to Cardiff four years ago could see Henry's tenure be placed under a considerable shadow.

But McGeechan is not convinced that is enough to merit a crisis.

"I do not see them having any problems," he said. "I have never had the experience of Wales being underdogs for an international in Cardiff before and that is not the case now.

"Anyone who doesn't recognise how dangerous Wales are on their own ground has a short memory.

"And if you look back through the championship, their performances have been a lot more impressive than ours, even in defeat. They have had some good parts to their game which people want to write off too easily.

"The priority is to get our own house in order. The only way we can do that is to put some real pressure on the opposition.

"So far, we have not done that consistently enough to make that part of our game a significant factor."

McGeechan reported no last-minute injury worries and walked round the Millennium Stadium for the first time with the rest of his team this morning.

Scotland have not played in the 80,000 stadium which was constructed for recent World Cup.

But, according to vice-captain Andy Nicol, there will be no excuses on that front if the result goes against the visitors.

"It was important to have a look at it because it means when we arrive at the ground before the game tomorrow, we will not spend half an hour staring at the ground rather than focusing on the game," said the Glasgow Caledonians scrum-half.

"It is an amazing place and you can imagine the noise it will generate when it is full.

"The stands are right on top of the pitch and the supporters are really close to the action. We are really looking forward to it."

Three new faces and one more positional change for Glenn Metcalfe is the extent to which McGeechan believes his side needed altering to improve on their defeat by France at Murrayfield two weeks ago.

While Newcastle lock Stuart Grimes and Edinburgh Reivers fly-half Duncan Hodge are old faces on the international scene, Craig Moir is very much the new-boy.

Educated in Milford Haven, the Northampton winger is looking to inflict pain on a country for whom he was capped at under 19, under-21 and Sevens levels.

But Moir is not the only member of the Scotland party trying to find their feet.

The same could also be said of the enigmatic Gregor Towsend. At 26, Townsend should be at the peak of his powers.

But, although he will win his 50th cap tomorrow, the Brive man is still frustratingly inconsistent.

Although he will not relish the switch to outside centre as Hodge takes over the role he prefers, Townsend could be deemed fortunate to be starting the game at all.

Three poor performances led to calls for the British Lion to be axed altogether.

But McGeechan has kept faith with a man who played under him at Northampton and offered a tribute to Townsend reaching his milestone.

"Gregor is an outstanding player who has excited a lot of people over the course of his international career," he said.

"Everyone within the team wants to see the best things come out of him as often as possible.

"He will be a problem for Wales tomorrow because he is a problem for the best players in the world."

But pack leader Stuart Reid is hoping it is not just the back division who are causing the home time to panic.

"It is very important for us to be tight up front and deny them the ball," said the Narbonne number eight.

"If they get frustrated and give penalties away that is to our advantage but we must make sure we keep our own discipline as well."