SCOTLAND must avoid the pitfall of fixating on how well Wales have been playing, and instead concentrate on carrying out their own game plan when the teams meet on Saturday, according to Allan Dell.
Warren Gatland’s squad are now on a winning streak of a dozen matches, and have the Grand Slam firmly in their sights, with only the Murrayfield game and the match at home to Ireland still to go. Their confidence will clearly be high, perhaps all the more so given Scotland have lost their last two games to Ireland and France.
But Dell is convinced that his team misfired in those two matches, and that they have a lot more to give in this Championship provided they do themselves justice. “You respect the opposition, but at the same time you don’t put them on a pedestal,” the Edinburgh loosehead said. “Wales have gone those 12 games unbeaten, but we’re not saying, ‘Shit, they’re unbeatable’.
“We’ve seen them lose and we’ve beaten them at club level. At international level we beat them here two years ago. Thinking back at that game we were very disciplined and controlled on the defensive side of things and that allowed us to win. Wales have done well and we will give them the respect they deserve and we will make sure we have our heads on the whole time.
“Their confidence is very high – they haven’t lost in 12 or 13 games, and Gatland’s going about saying their team has forgotten how to lose and all that. So they’re going to be full of confidence.
“They’ve got a game plan that has been working for them, clearly, but the biggest thing is that we need to focus on ourselves and get our own game plan right. In the last two games we haven’t really done that and we’ve lost, so we’re not worried about the prospect of them winning a Grand Slam or us trying to stop them, we’re just going to focus on ourselves and getting our game flowing again so we can get our confidence on the front foot again.
“They are a good side, they’ve shown it. But if they come in thinking about the Grand Slam and thinking about how we played in France, and come in expecting it to be easy, then we can get a good run on them.
“But Gatland will be pumping them up, he’ll be revving them up saying how physical it’s going to be, about how they need to come to Murrayfield to make a statement. So it’s up to us to focus on our game and make sure we get our things right. We don’t need to worry about them.”
Wales will have the pressure of playing for the biggest prize on offer in the Six Nations, but there will also be pressure on Scotland to get back to winning ways – or, at the very least, to turn in a convincing performance – after their error-strewn outing against the Irish was followed by a below-par afternoon in Paris. According to Dell, however, that pressure is not the same thing as feeling they have a point to prove.
“We don’t have a point to prove: we know how good we are,” he continued. “We know when we play and get things right, when we concentrate, that we can play good rugby. It’s about backing that up. So we should look out there and get back on that run again. We’ve had such good runs and then we get blips in concentration and stuff up, and then it’s panic stations all over. In the camp we’re confident. We know how we want to play, we just didn’t do it last week. The French played well. We just need to focus on ourselves, get our game plan going and make sure we do the right things at the right times. We need to be on it mentally as well.”
Gregor Townsend will announce his squad to play Wales today, and while Dell hopes to hold on to the No 1 jersey, there are sure to be some changes, with Sean Maitland having joined a long injury list and WP Nel and Hamish Watson available again. The front-row forward is convinced that whoever the new additions to the team are, their enthusiasm and energy can help Scotland regain the impetus they have lost since that opening-day win over Italy.
“We need to get that momentum back. If guys do come in, then it’s important that we get combinations so that guys get used to working with each other. And fresh faces are exciting, because you’ve got young guys coming in who are on the fringes and ready to get their opportunity and they have that hunger.
“You know how it is when young boys are chomping at the bit to get stuck in, that just makes the more experienced guys keen, because they bring an energy. Everyone needs to stick to our game plan so that we can get back on track and give some confidence to the fans, because I think guys are starting to wonder if the game plan is too complicated or asking if we’re good enough to play that way.
“We know how we can play. People know how we can play. People just forget, you know how it is.”
Meanwhile, Dell’s Edinburgh front-row colleague Cameron Fenton has signed a one-year contract extension with the team. The 23-year-old, who is in his second season with Richard Cockerill’s squad, returned from injury in January and has made a single appearance so far this season.
“Cammy is a young, determined player with bags of potential,” the head coach said. “He’s come back really strongly from injury this season and will no doubt continue to improve at his position as the club moves into the new campaign.”
Fenton’s new deal ties him to Edinburgh until 2020.