Wales coach Warren Gatland insists it ‘wasn’t hard at all’ to drop veterans Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric for Scotland clash… with a rookie back-row of Christ Tshiunza, Tommy Reffell and Jac Morgan to start in Edinburgh
- Wales are set to take on Scotland in their second Six Nations game this weekend
- Warren Gatland’s side are looking to bounce back from a heavy defeat to Ireland
- The head coach has made six changes for the clash at Murrayfield on Saturday
Warren Gatland ripped up his Wales team and then claimed it was one of the easier decisions of his glittering coaching career.
Gatland’s dropping of experienced forward trio Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau for Saturday’s Six Nations trip to Scotland has the feel of a changing-of-the-guard moment.
Jones – the world’s most capped player – and Tipuric miss out completely. No 8 Faletau moves to the bench.
Jones, Tipuric and Faletau have 342 Wales caps and 18 Lions appearances between them. Gatland has instead placed his faith in youth.
A rookie back-row of Christ Tshiunza, Tommy Reffell and Jac Morgan will start in Edinburgh.
Veteran Alun Wyn Jones has been dropped by Warren Gatland for the clash with Scotland
‘There has been no knee-jerk reaction because this has been part of the plan right from day one,’ said Gatland, who saw Wales brushed aside by Ireland last weekend.
In his first game back as Wales coach, Gatland opted for experience against the world’s No 1 side, but his team paid the price for an awful start to lose 34-10.
Jones, Tipuric and Faletau all had poor games against Ireland, but Gatland’s decision to dispense with their services for Scotland is still a huge call. So, was it a tough decision?
‘It wasn’t hard at all,’ said Gatland. ‘We’ve got a bit of a disparity between the experience and the inexperience in the squad. How do we get these youngsters some game time?
‘That’s done by them playing international rugby. There hasn’t been any change in our thinking.’
Gatland denied any suggestion his selection was a changing of the guard and said there was still a route back into the team for his Wales veterans.
But it is also abundantly clear Tshiunza, Reffell, Morgan and lock Dafydd Jenkins have the chance to lay claim to Welsh Test spots for years to come at Murrayfield.
‘We’ve got a group of youngsters who, if I was in that age bracket, I’d be thinking “I’ve got a chance of holding onto that jersey”,’ said Gatland, laying down a gauntlet to Wales’ next generation.
‘That’s what I’d be excited about. As a youngster, I’d be excited by the opportunity. We need to find out about some of these youngsters.’
Gatland has made five personnel changes from the Ireland game. He has never lost to Scotland as Wales coach, but Gregor Townsend’s are firm favourites after Calcutta Cup victory over England.
Gatland has made six changes in total for Wales’ Six Nations clash with Scotland on Saturday
‘It’s the strongest Scottish side I’ve seen for a number of years,’ Gatland admitted.
Gatland’s Welsh selection shuffle must be considered a gamble, but it is also one which could well pay off. Gatland’s rolls of the dice don’t often end in disaster.
Tshiunza, Reffell and Morgan aren’t short on talent, but they have only 67 years and 15 caps between them. It will be fascinating to see how they go.
Prop Zander Fagerson is the only Scotland change from the team which beat England with their head coach Townsend unsurprisingly sticking to his guns after a famous Twickenham win.
Justin Tipuric (L) and Taulupe Faletau (R) were also dropped as Gatland ripped up his team
ROOKIE BACK ROW
Club: Exeter Chiefs
Position: Flanker / second row
Wales caps: 3
Club: Leicester Tigers
Wales caps: 5
Position: Flanker / No 8
Wales caps: 7
Wales’ front five struggled badly to make yardage against Ireland and Scotland will look to target Gatland’s men in that area.
If they have joy, Wales’ back-row will be in trouble and Finn Russell will be able to play off front foot ball.
Last year, Scotland beat England in round one before losing to Wales.
Townsend’s men don’t have a good record of backing up impressive wins. Scotland have never won their first two games of a Six Nations. They must do so now to prove they are a top side.
‘I would hope there’s confidence,’ said Townsend. ‘We’ve had two good wins in a row and the game before that was one of our best performances against New Zealand.
‘Wales will offer huge physicality. They will keep going at us. We just have to make sure we front up for that challenge and improve on last week.
‘We know Wales are a quality side, a side which is as motivated as ever to get a win after starting with a defeat. They’ve picked a team that is going to come after us. It’s a positive selection from their point of view, bringing in younger players who want to drive the team forward.’
Exeter Chiefs star Christ Tshiunza (R) will make his Six Nations debut for Wales on Saturday
The changes come after Wales were thrashed 34-10 by Ireland in their tournament opener
Wales squad vs Scotland
15. Liam Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 82 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 45 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 110 caps)
12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 2 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 4 caps)
10. Dan Biggar (Toulon – 104 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 41 caps)
1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets – 45 caps)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 87 caps) captain
3. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 46 caps)
4. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 2 caps)
5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 42 caps)
6. Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs – 3 caps)
7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 5 caps)
8. Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 7 caps)
16. Scott Baldwin (Ospreys – 35 caps)
17. Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby – 18 caps)
18. Leon Brown (Dragons – 22 caps)
19. Rhys Davies (Ospreys – uncapped)
20. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 96 caps)
21. Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 37 caps)
22. Rhys Patchell (Scarlets – 21 caps)
23. Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys – 56 caps)
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