Scotland go into their second Six Nations game against Wales today as distinct favorites despite their opening loss to France.
Andy Robinson’s side scored three tries in their 34-21 defeat in Paris and will go into their Murrayfield showdown against the Welsh, 26-19 losers to England last weekend, seeking a sixth victory in eight games.
Wales, however, head north of the border without a win in their last eight games and having beaten Scotland just three times at Murrayfield in 20 years, desperate for a win to help avoid their worst-ever run of 10 straight losses, under then-coach Steve Hansen in 2002-2003.
One would have thought the pressure is mounting but this isn’t true according to lock Bradley Davies, whose duel with Scotland’s Richie Gray should be one of the more interesting tussles in the game.
“Everyone is panicking at the moment except ourselves,” Davies said. “We had some tough games in the autumn and we pushed some big teams close. Again, against England last week we did not quite nail those chances.”
“We are on a losing streak at the moment, and that is not nice. We need to develop that winning mentality and stop making the mistakes,” he said.
Davies’ opposite number Gray, whose shock of blonde hair allied with a couple of barn-storming runs to make him a stand-out performer against France, said he knew his team would have to cut out the mistakes against the Welsh.
The Scots might have scored three tries against the French, but they also gave away four turnover tries.
“The guys played really well in Paris but we made mistakes that cost us so we will be fully focused on making sure these same errors do not happen against Wales,” Gray said.
While Scotland are unchanged with coach Robinson having signed a contract extension through until 2015, former Wales captain Ryan Jones comes in for the injured Andy Powell at No. 8 and James Hook is moved from full-back to outside-half, with Stephen Jones shifting to the bench.
It will be Hook’s first run-out this season in the No. 10 shirt, having spent most of the season with Ospreys at outside-center.
“Playing outside-half, there is going to be pressure,” said Hook, who made his last Wales start at fly-half almost two years ago and whose recent decision to join Perpignan was in part driven by his desire to play regularly at 10.
“I have total confidence about playing there. It’s just that I haven’t started in the position for a long time,” he said.
ENGLAND V ITALY
Italy and Leicester Tigers prop Martin Castrogiovanni said his club teammates have been bugging him for free meals at his Italian restaurant, but he is determined to make them go hungry.
Castro, as he is popularly known, will face a clutch of Leicester teammates when England host Italy at Twickenham today.
And the prop said the banter has already started between him and his teammates ahead of the game.
However, there is one sticking point on which Castro won’t budge, he doesn’t give rugby players free meals.
“The jokes have already started these past few days in the [English] newspapers with [Dan] Cole, who is only 23, but they say he looks more like 45,” Castro said. “He [Cole] has said that instead of getting a free coffee in my restaurant he wants to eat for free.”
“But I can’t let him eat for free because if 10 rugby players come in to eat for free the restaurant will be at risk of going under, so he’ll have to do with a coffee because that costs me less,” Castro said.