Six Nations: Duncan Taylor unfazed by Wales’ Jamie Roberts

Duncan Taylor in action for Scotland as a sub against England. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

Duncan Taylor in action for Scotland as a sub against England. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

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No matter how much some people try to complicate the game, rugby remains a simple sport at heart. Carry the ball over the gain line. Repeat. If you do that often enough you will score a try and Wales arguably boast the best ball carrier in the business in the muscular shape of Jamie Roberts.

The Wales and Lions centre stands 6ft 4in tall, he tips the scales around 17½st and he sports a jaw of Desperate Dan proportions. The hard running midfielder boasts soft hands, he invariably makes the correct decision and he plays with all the intelligence you would expect of a qualified doctor.

It is Duncan Taylor’s task to halt this runaway train and even his coach Vern Cotter admitted that the Scot had “a bit of a job on his hands”.

The Saracens man only gets a start for Scotland following injuries first to Alex Dunbar, and more recently, Matt Scott who tweaked his thigh on Wednesday (and that doesn’t take into consideration Peter Horne). At least Taylor has some idea of what to expect having squared up to Roberts a month ago in the Aviva Premiership when Sarries suffered their first loss of the season.

“Yeah, I played [him] a few weeks ago,” Taylor’s recall is a little hazy. “I lasted about 20 minutes and I ended up with a head knock and had to come off but yeah, I played against him, about a month ago, against Harlequins.

“I guess he’s a big, heavy guy. He runs very hard and he runs good lines and he’s an intelligent player so there are not too many 12s out there in terms of his size and his ability. I guess it’s just another challenge.”

Taylor is Jack of many trades, happy to play across the outside backs. Although he pops up at 13 more often than anywhere else, he insists he has no preference between the two midfield berths, inside or outside. Let’s hope he’s singing the same tune after running into Roberts tomorrow.

In that respect he is a little like Sean Lamont who replaces him on the bench in what is Cotter’s only change to the match-day 23. Last Saturday Taylor came off the bench against England for Tommy Seymour and didn’t look out of place on the left wing.

If his coach Cotter seemed angry with the world in general, although the stink eye may have been directed specifically at the Scottish scribblers, Taylor appears the very opposite, a laid back character who only bares his teeth on the field.

A useful addition to the squad, Taylor is a big, strong centre himself who has kept the abrasive Puma Marcelo Bosch bench-bound for Sarries on occasion this season. He needs to be wary of Roberts but the Scot is capable of causing a bit of damage himself once he gets up to speed with the pace of international rugby having missed the World Cup with injury. Like everyone else Taylor insists that the Scottish problems are easily fixed ahead of Saturday’s show down.

“Last weekend we weren’t just quite clinical enough,” he concedes. “We dropped a few balls in the final third and when we had the chance to maybe score a few phases down the line we coughed the ball up. I think it is just about keeping hold of the ball and making sure we convert these opportunities when we are down in the final third. All the boys are capable of doing it. As a team we just need to come together and make sure we keep hold of the ball in those parts of the pitch.”

At one stage against Ireland last week Wales held onto the ball for 25 phases so the Scots know if they cough up it as readily as they did against England they may not see it again for a while. Scotland have not won in Cardiff since 2002 but Taylor is resolute.

“We all know that we are a good side,” he argues, “and we all know that we are capable of winning these games and we have that confidence.”

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