WITH so many surprises in this Six Nations tournament so far, it would be a brave pundit who offered anything but the sketchiest prediction ahead of Saturday’s match between Scotland and Wales at Murrayfield.
However, it is probably safe to presume one thing – the wingers will have a say in the outcome and all four of them are fighting for a spot on the Lions touring party.
England and Ireland offer little by way of competition. Chris Ashton has been so off-form there has been speculation that centre Manu Tuilagi may be shuffled one spot wider against Italy. Mike Brown, England’s other wing, is a full-back by trade who may lack a yard of pace for the hard tracks expected in Australia. Ireland, with Tommy Bowe’s future in doubt, are unlikely to produce a winger for the tourists.
All four fast men from Scotland and Wales have already scored in this championship, with Wales’ giant striker Alex Cuthbert grabbing a brace, one against Ireland, another against Italy. George North scored the decider against France, only to be joined on the pitch by another North in the form of his over-enthusiastic father. Tim Visser scored the all-important opener against Italy and Sean Maitland did the same against England at Twickenham on his debut.
More important than the try he scored is Maitland’s work in defence because he stopped two certain scores by Ireland. First up be reeled in Keith Earls like the Irishman was moving in slow motion to prevent him from scoring but the Kiwi also came off his wing to wrap up Brian O’Driscoll and prevent the veteran from getting a scoring pass away in exactly the same spot.
Visser also showed improved defence when putting in a textbook tackle on a flying Craig Gilroy, although another incident showed the big Dutchman in a less flattering light.
Peter O’Mahony was literally pushing his weight about after the whistle so Visser reciprocated with a shove in the back. The Irish flanker was rocked forward and his head caught Kelly Brown clear on the nose which erupted with blood. If Visser scores the winner next week, the Scotland skipper will surely forgive him.