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RBS Six Nations Preview – Wales v Scotland.

RBS Six Nations Preview – Wales v Scotland.

It says much about sport’s capacity for eternal
optimism that fans of both Wales and Scotland are looking forward to their Six Nations opener at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

It says much about sport’s capacity for eternal
optimism that fans of both Wales and Scotland are looking forward to their Six Nations opener at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Last season a dismal Wales collected the Six Nations wooden spoon
but two
encouraging, albeit losing, World Cup displays against New Zealand
eventual champions England have created a climate of renewed
confidence in the
rugby-mad nation.

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Meanwhile Scotland, who like Wales struggled to make it into the
World Cup
quarter-finals, have been buoyed by the arrival of new Australian
coach Matt
who has put his trust in some promising young talents.

Such was the mood of optimism within Wales that centre Iestyn
dared to suggest the team might be title contenders.

“We are in a situation now that we are playing some good
rugby but we have
to concentrate on our own game,” said Harris.

“If that makes us contenders at the end then it would be
fantastic,” Harris

And he was backed up by Wales coach Steve Hansen.
“There’s a big difference between this year’s expectations
and previous
ones because we can justify this year’s by looking at our
performances in the
World Cup,” said Hansen, set to return to his native New Zealand
when his
contract expires after the Six Nations.

But Wales will be without hooker Robin McBryde and lock Robert
injured. Sidoli will be replaced by the experienced Gareth Llewellyn,
now just
three caps shy of Neil Jenkins’s Welsh record of 87 Tests.

Elsewhere Gareth Thomas, retained at full-back after starring
there as an
emergency measure during the World Cup, will be seeking the one try
he needs
to match Ieuan Evans’s Welsh record tally of 33.

Meanwhile Williams, faced with several retirements after the World
including those of captain and scrum-half Bryan Redpath and veteran
Gregor Townsend, has been bold in his initial Test selection.

Edinburgh centre-wing Tom Philip, Borders scrum-half Chris Cusiter
Edinburgh back-row forward Allister Hogg will represent their country
for the
first time on Saturday.

“The three of them deserve this chance,” said Williams,
who said his
long-term aim is to bolster Scotland’s team for the next World Cup in

“They have done very well since the World Cup. A lot of
players have
retired since then and I have had to build a new side and I have
confidence in
these guys,” added Williams whose team will be led by Chris
Edinburgh fly-half.

“We haven’t the resources of the English and the French in
terms of
personnel and our plans are longer term. But sometimes we can be too
It will be a great experience for them.”

Gareth Thomas (Celtic Warriors); Rhys Williams (Cardiff), Sonny
(Celtic Warriors), Iestyn Harris (Cardiff), Shane Williams
Stephen Jones (Llanelli), Gareth Cooper (Celtic Warriors); Dafydd
(Llanelli), Martyn Williams (Cardiff), Colin Charvis (Tarbes/FRA,
Gareth Llewellyn (Neath-Swansea), Brent Cockbain (Celtic Warriors);
Adam Jones
(Neath-Swansea), Mefin Davies (Celtic Warriors), Duncan Jones
Replacements: Huw Bennett (Neath-Swansea) or Gareth Williams
Gethin Jenkins (Celtic Warriors), Michael Owen (Dragons), Jonathan
(Neath-Swansea), Dwayne Peel (Llanelli), Ceri Sweeney (Celtic
Warriors), Tom
Shanklin (Cardiff)

Ben Hinshelwood (Worcester/ENG); Simon Danielli (Bath/ENG), Tom
(Edinburgh), Brendan Laney (Edinburgh), Andrew Henderson (Glasgow);
Paterson (Edinburgh, capt), Chris Cusiter (Borders); Simon Taylor
Allister Hogg (Edinburgh), Cameron Mather (Glasgow); Stuart Grimes
(Newcastle/ENG), Scott Murray (Edinburgh); Bruce Douglas (Borders),
Bulloch (Glasgow), Tom Smith (Northampton/ENG)
Replacements: Rob Russell (Saracens/ENG), Gavin Kerr (Leeds/ENG),
White (Sale/ENG), Simon Cross (Edinburgh), Mike Blair (Edinburgh),
Dan Parks
(Glasgow), Simon Webster (Edinburgh).

Referee: Donal Courtney (IRL)