By Graham Thomas
Scotland coach Vern Cotter insists Jamie Roberts will be met with a tartan wall of resistance at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.
Cotter has pinpointed the Wales centre as the man the Scots must stop if they are to avoid a ninth successive defeat to Wales.
Much fancied to conjure a Six Nations revival following their promising showing at the World Cup, Scotland reverted to their familiar role as fall guys last week as they began the tournament with a 15-9 defeat at home to England.
But Cotter believes if his side can contain the physical threat of Roberts, then they can go on to win in Cardiff for the first time since 2002.
“When Jamie Roberts starts hitting us, we’ve got to make sure we keep our width and keep our eyes up. We want to be competitive for as long as possible,” said the New Zealander.
“Wales are capable of playing a power game through their forwards, in close with Roberts, and they can move it wide, as they did against Ireland, with their back players. But they find space after tightening it up with players like Roberts.”
For all the promise of their narrow quarter-final defeat to Australia back in the autumn, Scotland have lost their last eight matches in the Six Nations.
They have been particularly woeful against Wales in recent years, but when it was put to Warren Gatland this week that he had never lost to the Scots he was quick to correct the questioner.
“Actually, I have lost to Scotland. It happened to me when I was Ireland coach. I haven’t lost against them with Wales, but a lot of those matches have been very close. And in a couple of them we got out of jail.
“They look like a team that are not far away and Vern Cotter has made them hard to beat.”
Cotter has agreed with Gatland’s request that the stadium roof remains closed and insists the Scots will thrive in better conditions.
“We’ve spent another week together. The weather has been kinder to us. It’s been nice to get out there and not have that horizontal rain and sleet coming down on top of us.
“There were critical moments last week when we lost possession so the accuracy is one of the things we’ve been looking at.
“But we didn’t have to drive that home to the players. They are fully aware of that.”
Kick-off: 4.50, BBC1
Ground: Principality Stadium.
Referee: George Clancy.
Odds: Wales 2-9, Draw 33-1, Scotland 11-2.
Teams: Wales: L. Williams (Scarlets); G. North (Northampton), J. Davies (Clermont Auvergne), J. Roberts (Harlequins), T. James (Cardiff Blues); D. Biggar (Ospreys), G. Davies (Scarlets); R. Evans (Scarlets), S. Baldwin (Ospreys), S. Lee (Scarlets), L.Charteris (Racing 92), A-W. Jones (Ospreys), S. Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T. Faletau (Dragons), J. Tipuric (Ospreys). Reps: K. Owens (Scarlets), G. Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), T. Francis (Exeter), B. Davies (Wasps), D. Lydiate (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), R. Priestland (Bath), G. Anscombe (Cardiff Blues).
Scotland: S. Hogg (Glasgow); S. Maitland (London Irish), M. Bennett (Glasgow), D. Taylor (Saracens), T. Seymour (Glasgow); F. Russell (Glasgow), G. Laidlaw (Gloucester, capt); A. Dickinson (Edinburgh), R. Ford (Edinburgh), WP. Nel (Edinburgh), R. Gray (Toulouse), J. Gray (Glasgow), J. Barclay (Scarlets), D Denton (Bath), J. Hardie (Edinburgh).
Reps: S. McInally (Edinburgh), G. Reid (Glasgow), Z. Fagerson (Glasgow), T. Swinson (Glasgow), B. Cowan (London Irish), S. Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh), D. Weir (Glasgow), S. Lamont (Glasgow).