Scott Johnson has recalled Euan Murray and Alasdair Strokosch to his Scotland squad for this Saturday’s RBS Six Nations clash with Wales, and the interim head coach will name his team at noon today.
Murray, the 32-year-old tight-head prop, and 31-times-capped Perpignan back-row forward Strokosch both return to the group after missing last month’s 12-8 win over Ireland.
Devout Christian Murray was unavailable on religious grounds as he declines to play on the Sabbath, while Strokosch has been sidelined since the facial injury he suffered in the opening-day defeat to England at Twickenham. Of those who were in the match-day 23 against Ireland, only David Denton is absent. The Edinburgh back-row forward picked up a knee injury while on duty for his club in their RaboDirect PRO12 loss to the Scarlets at the weekend.
However, Ryan Wilson, the uncapped Glasgow Warriors No 8, who led Scotland A to their win against England Saxons last month, is enlisted.
Alex Cuthbert has predicted an exciting and open game when Wales tackle Scotland at Murrayfield. Wales have won on three of their last four visits to the Scottish capital, and a repeat result on Saturday would keep them in title contention before hosting tournament favourites England later this month.
Cardiff Blues wing Cuthbert scored his first Six Nations try in last season’s appointment with Scotland, and he now boasts an impressive strike-rate of five touchdowns in the last seven championship games.
He also scored the clincher when Wales beat France to be crowned Grand Slam champions last term, and he has already touched down against Ireland and Italy in the current tournament.
“I can see it being open,” Cuthbert said. “If it’s a dry day then I can see it being thrown around a lot, especially with the calibre of player on the pitch. We will be looking to exploit the spaces we see when the game wears down.
“This is our third away game in a row, so it would be good to put a performance in up there to get the win. Then we can concentrate on that last game. It’s down to desire, that want and hunger to win, and our aggression in defence. We don’t want to give teams front-foot ball. That first 20 minutes away from home is key.”
Reflecting on events against Scotland 12 months ago, Cuthbert said: “It was my first try for Wales, so I remember it very clearly. It’s hard to explain how good it is to play for Wales, and to score as well is a special feeling. At the Millennium Stadium, it’s a feeling you won’t get anywhere else, other than hearing the anthem. Every try I take in my stride and enjoy every moment. I guess I get in the team because of my scoring record.
“That is my job – myself, George [North] and Leigh [Halfpenny] – to get those tries and finish off the hard work the forwards do. We work hard on phase-play moves and try to manipulate defences and get myself, George and Leigh with ball in hand as much as possible.”
Cuthbert’s clash with opposite highly-rated Scotland wing Tim Visser on Saturday could have an important bearing regarding the outcome – and in terms of British and Irish Lions selection later this year.
“I’ve played him [Visser] a couple of times in the RaboDirect PRO12 and had some good tussles,” Cuthbert said. “He’s a good player and very good finisher with a great scoring record. He has great footwork and speed and is a player that looks to get into games. Scotland try to use him as much as possible.
“They are scoring tries from some distances, especially [full-back] Stuart Hogg. He has scored some wonder tries and is the form player for them.
“It will be a tough challenge – we know what’s going to come from the Scots. Especially on their home patch, they will be right up for it. I haven’t heard any of the boys talking about England, it’s all about Scotland. We know what is going to come up against us.”