Friday 15 December 2017

Gatland faces another headache as Lee ruled out with concussion

Warren Gatland has faced questions about concussion all week and he undoubtedly will do so again at Murrayfield tomorrow if Wales fall short at tighthead prop.
Warren Gatland has faced questions about concussion all week and he undoubtedly will do so again at Murrayfield tomorrow if Wales fall short at tighthead prop.

James Corrigan

Warren Gatland has faced questions about concussion all week and he undoubtedly will do so again at Murrayfield tomorrow if Wales fall short at tighthead prop.

If the Kiwi and his management team were cleared of wrongdoing after wing George North was left on the field against England last week after being knocked out, the verdict will be damning if Aaron Jarvis and Scott Andrews cannot step up to the mark against Scotland.

Jarvis will start and Andrews will be among the replacements following Samson Lee's failure yesterday to pass the final component of his concussion test.

And so the spotlight will inevitably seek out the ever-popular Lions tighthead Adam Jones, who will be on the sofa twiddling his toes having retired from international rugby after being left out of the Six Nations squad by Gatland.

The scrum was certain anyway to be a particular point of interest after Wales struggled there in their opener. But now the focus will be intense, with Jarvis not noted for his scrummaging and Andrews only the fourth choice at the Cardiff Blues, where Jones is number one.

There was no late SOS call to Jones, with Rob Howley, Wales's assistant coach, saying yesterday "we respect Adam's decision to retire" and indicating it would be up to the 33-year-old to phone Gatland and not the other way around.

That is not going to happen and who can blame Jones, because there is a palpable feeling within the Wales camp that this is not the time to peer backwards.

"It's obviously disappointing to lose a player of Samson's ability," Howley said. "Aaron and Scott have been with us over the last couple of years and Aaron came to South Africa with us last summer and came on in the second Test. It's a great opportunity isn't it? It's important we move on and look forward to the opportunity it presents to both Scott and Aaron."

That means there are 13 survivors from the 21-16 defeat, with a symptom-free North stood down by Gatland after all the controversy of his head blows.

And while the national coach has maintained that Wales are essentially working towards the World Cup, he will definitely not want to lose to Scotland for the first time since taking over in 2008.

Furthermore, in the seven Six Nations campaigns under Gatland, the Dragons have never lost the opening two games, and to be out of the title running this early would not be taken at all well by a support base not known for its patience. But Howley insisted there was a belief they could reprise 2013, when they won the silverware despite losing their first match.

"We've been here before as players and coaches and the one thing about our players is they have always reacted to what has been said over the last six days," Howley said.

"It's about being effective and being efficient with the ball. We know what's likely to come from Scotland as they are playing in front of their own crowd for the first time in the Six Nations. They are confident, coming on the back of a tough game in France that they could have won."

For his part, Vern Cotter sounded like a coach who did not particularly want any compliments as he sought to carry on playing the resentful, written-off underdog.


It almost worked in Paris last Saturday, before they eventually went down 15-8 and Cotter is clearly expecting Scotland to complete just their second victory over Wales in 13 attempts.

"We were told there were four teams in contention for the title and we weren't one of them. We're now playing against a team who consider it just a day in the office to come up and beat us," Cotter said. "But the squad have been working hard this week to improve, knowing that we're coming up against a team who lost as well but consider themselves title contenders."

Cotter also has been forced to make two changes to his side. Sean Lamont, the 34-year-old, will win his 92nd cap on the wing because of Tommy Seymour's hip injury while Euan Murray's religious beliefs prevent him playing on a Sunday, so Geoff Cross comes in at tighthead.

There are also changes among the replacements. Dougie Fife, the try-scorer in Paris, and Peter Horne have both been dropped, with Greig Tonks and Matt Scott stepping up.(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Scotland - S Hogg, S Lamont, M Bennett, A Dunbar, T Visser, F Russell, G Laidlaw (captain); Alasdair Dickinson, R Ford, G Cross, R Gray, J Gray, R Harley, B Cowan, J Beattie. Reps: F Brown, G Reid, J Welsh, J Hamilton, A Strokosch, S Hidalgo-Clyne, G Tonks, M Scott.

WALES - L Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, L Williams, D Biggar, R Webb, G Jenkins, R Hibbard, A Jarvis, wJ Ball, AW Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate, S Warburton (Capt), T Faletau. Reps: S Baldwin, P James, S Andrews, L Charteris, J Tipuric, M Phillips, R Priestland, S Williams.

Scotland v Wales,

Live RTE2 and BBC1 , tomorrow 3.00

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