Gregor Townsend believes Scotland are well equipped to banish their Cardiff hoodoo – but the head coach is still braced for a formidable challenge at the Principality Stadium.
The Scots beat Wales in Llanelli behind closed doors but they have not won in the Welsh capital since 2002.
They were humbled 34-7 on their last Six Nations visit in 2018, but Townsend feels his team – buoyed by victories away to England and France last year – now have the resilience to handle testing occasions such as this Saturday’s.
“We should be better equipped to deal with the challenge of going to Cardiff,” he said. “We’ve not been there for four years so a lot has happened in those years to this team. We’ve had some experiences against some top sides both home and away, and we’ve shown resilience in those games.
“We’ve not won them all but I believe the tests we had at Twickenham and in Paris last year sets us up this week for what will be a great challenge in a full stadium at one of the best venues in the world.
“It would be hard to top what we did in Paris but the challenge this weekend is a bigger one in many ways because of our history in Cardiff and the fact it’s a full crowd, which it wasn’t in Paris.”
Wales have been written off by many observers after last weekend’s 29-7 defeat away to Ireland, but Townsend expects them to be a stronger team this Saturday.
“Normally, you’re better in your second game in the Six Nations,” he said. “In the first game things didn’t usually go smoothly for you, so if you’re going up against a top side like Ireland, who have got lots of momentum and you’re playing them away from home, you may struggle to get into the game early on but I felt the second quarter and in parts of the second half, Wales were the equal of Ireland.
“We know they’ll be better for having that game and they’re a top side with great players throughout the 15.”
Townsend has made five changes to the team that started last weekend’s win over England, including the introduction of centre Sione Tuipulotu in place of his club-mate Sam Johnson.
“Sione brings a different dimension,” said Townsend. “He’s a different player to Sam (Johnson) and Cam (Redpath), the other players that were in consideration for 12. He’s a very creative player and he can bring others into play. He’s also got his long running game.
“The team is based on what we believe to be the best team to win this game. Jamie Ritchie’s injury is obviously an opportunity for Sam Skinner to come in. We’ve picked combinations we believe can work against the way Wales play and the way we want to play.”
Townsend has changed his entire front row, with Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel and Stuart McInally replacing Zander Fagerson, George Turner and Rory Sutherland.
“Regarding the front row, we looked at getting a fresh front row on at a certain point in the game last week and it’s now their opportunity to start,” said the head coach. “We’ll be looking to bring on a reserve front-row together like we did last week.”