Cardiff has been the graveyard of Scotland’s Six Nations’ ambitions for more than two decades now.

It is 22 years since the dark blues’ last win in the Welsh capital, which in many ways is simply an extension of a record that has rarely been dominant.

Since the last Scottish Grand Slam in 1990 there have only been two victories and across 138 years of competition just 10 wins in total from 46 attempts to storm Cardiff.  

That’s the poorest return that Scotland have managed from trips to the capital cities of any of the original Five Nations:  

  • Dublin – 18 wins (most recent – 2010) 
  • London – 14 wins (most recent – 2023) 
  • Paris – 12 wins (most recent – 2021) 
  • Cardiff – 10 wins (most recent – 2002) 

The 21st century has cast trips to Wales as an early reality check, with all bar one of the last ten games between these sides at the Principality Stadium being played in the first or second round.

The tone in even-numbered years of the Six Nations era has been set by prematurely imposed Scottish disappointment. Does this year’s squad have it in them to alter the tide of history and break their Cardiff curse? 

Wales scouting report 

Rugby World Cup results: Pool stage: Wales 32-26 Fiji, Wales 28-8 Portugal, Wales 40-6 Australia, Wales 43-19 Georgia; quarter-final: Wales 17-29 Argentina 

Despite heading into the World Cup off the back of just a single win (over Italy) in the 2023 Six Nations, Warren Gatland’s men were able to win all four of their group stage fixtures and top the pool for the second World Cup in succession. 

Fiji, Portugal and Georgia provided stuffy opposition who were ultimately seen off with varying degrees of comfort – the final 10 minutes against the Fijians were particularly nerve-wracking for Welsh fans. 

Scotland Rugby News:

The statement performance came against Australia where Gatland was able to get one (and then some) over on his old rival Eddie Jones. The Wallabies were dismantled by a Wales’ team that even lost their talismanic stand off, Dan Biggar, after just 12 minutes but had the psychological strength to power through while it was their opponents who crumbled. 

Tactical tweaks 

That shellacking of Australia and the first hour or so against Argentina in the knockout stages showcased Wales’ ability to adjust their gameplan for what was required to overcome the opposition on the day. 

The Welsh needed just 254 metres gained with ball in hand to bag three tries and six penalties versus the Aussies. They were able to manipulate weaknesses in defensive alignments and win the territorial battle by putting boot to ball (led from scrum half by Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams) against a Wallabies’ side that had little kicking game to speak of and whose rookie stand off was badly exposed by Gatland’s tactical masterclass. 

Against an Argentinian team that love to kick the leather off the ball (they gained over a kilometre from kicks in each of their three knockout matches), Wales opened things up more, passing the ball 2.5 times per ruck compared to 1.7 against Australia. The starting XV put the Welsh within touching distance of back to back RWC semi-finals but the bench couldn’t close it out with errors (particularly at the setpiece) creeping in at crucial times in the last 15 minutes. 

Squad overhaul

It’s that shortage of strength in depth that might be seen as the biggest issue currently facing Wales.

Having seen the unavoidable four-yearly cycle of players’ international careers ending kick off early with the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric missing out on the World Cup squad, there have been yet more departures since the end of that tournament. 

In all, a dozen British and Irish Lions have gone compared to the group selected for the start of the 2023 Six Nations.

With skipper Jac Morgan injured, last year’s breakout star Joe Hawkins ineligible and having been unable to persuade winger Immanuel Feyi-Waboso to opt for Wales over England, this is far from the squad that Warren Gatland might have hoped to be able to pick. 

The fact remains though that whatever Welsh 23 runs out in Cardiff, there will be plenty of players in the lineup with past experience of crushing Scottish dreams.

This is also a generation of Welshmen who have grown up with winning against the dark blues taken as pretty much a given. 2023 saw Warren Gatland’s first ever loss against Scotland as Wales’ head coach and he will be doing everything in is power to avoid repeating the experience. 

Fact file

  • Last year at Murrayfield, Wales managed just a single line break (v 10 for the Scots) and 11 defenders beaten (v 34 for the Scots – Duhan van der Merwe had 9 on his own ). 
  • Scotland have only scored a single try in each of their last four trips to Wales in all competitions, and average one try per game across 12 outings dating back to 2003. 
  • It is 38 years since Scotland scored more than two tries on the road against Wales 

Previous results 

This will be the 13th time the two sides have met in Wales for a Six Nations match. The head-to-head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective: 

L W L L L L L L L L W L 


Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand, eighth Six Nations match) 
Assistant Referees:  James Doleman and  Angus Mabey (both New Zealand) 
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand) 

Scotland Rugby News: Ben O’Keeffe will be the man in the middle in Cardiff.Ben O’Keeffe will be the man in the middle in Cardiff. (Image: SNS Group)

Ben O’Keeffe is currently a bit of a go-to appointment for matches involving Gregor Townsend's side. This will be his fifth appointment as referee in Scotland's last 26 matches. That seems like a positive given the Scots’ record with him in charge.

Part 2 of the preview, including the key head-to-head battles, will follow on Friday.