Wales wary of Finn Russell as they seek Six Nations ‘closure’ against Scotland

Stephen Jones says that Wales are under no illusions about the importance of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Scotland.

Finn Russell made his Scotland return as a replacement against Georgia and could start against Wales. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Finn Russell made his Scotland return as a replacement against Georgia and could start against Wales. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Wales might be comfortably out of title contention when the tournament reaches its climax this weekend, with Ireland, England and France all chasing silverware.

But last season’s Grand Slam champions are on the back of four successive defeats under head coach Wayne Pivac – Wales’ worst results sequence since 2016 – which underlines their Six Nations finale’s significance in Llanelli.

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Asked about any pressure accompanying the occasion, Wales assistant coach Jones said: “Pressure is an interesting word, isn’t it? It depends how you see that as an individual.

Wales assistant Stephen Jones, left, talks to head coach Wayne Pivac. The pair are trying to halt a losing run which has extended to four matches. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

“We are under no illusions. This is must-win for us, and we are really excited by that challenge.

“As a group, we want closure on the Six Nations campaign, and we have got to do it in a positive manner and we have got to get the result.”

Wales have not won a game since beating Italy 42-0 in their opening Six Nations fixture almost nine months ago.

Subsequent losses to Ireland, France and England – then France again in Paris three days ago – also saw them concede 15 tries.

And Wales’ defence could come under pressure again this weekend, with fly-half magician Finn Russell likely to feature in Scotland’s starting line-up.

Jones added: “The key is that as a team we are smart and manage the ball in certain areas of the pitch, so we don’t put ourselves under pressure, and manage our energy.

“They all have a knock-on effect on defence. There are some areas we have highlighted that we’ve fixed already in training.

“It is like any player – especially fly-halves – they want time and space. The key focus is to take that away from him (Russell).

“We respect the talents he has a player. He’s got a great attacking kicking game, and we’ve (got) to be in position early and at him early. He’s a very talented player.”

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Wales face an anxious wait over the fitness of scrum-half Rhys Webb for Saturday’s encounter at Parc y Scarlets.

Webb suffered a bang to the knee during Wales’ 38-21 defeat against France, and Cardiff Blues scrum-half Lloyd Williams, who won the last of his 28 caps four years ago, has been called up as cover.

If Webb is ruled out, then Scarlets number nine Gareth Davies would be in pole position to start, while Wales also have uncapped Kieran Hardy among their ranks.

“Hopefully it’s not too serious, is the answer to Rhys,” Jones said. “We are assessing him on a daily basis.

“We know Lloyd is an experienced scrum-half with a very good, balanced game. He’s a very smart rugby player, so we know he can pick up our game-plan very quickly.”

While Wales continue to monitor Webb, his fellow back Liam Williams could be in the selection mix.

Williams, who suffered an injury during the World Cup last year and has had extremely limited game-time since then, featured for the Scarlets in their Guinness Pro14 victory over Benetton last Friday.

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