Scots' physical examination
New skipper alert to threat posed by Welsh
As a player who plies his trade in the valleys, new Scotland captain John Barclay knows better than most what to expect when Wales visit BT Murrayfield in the RBS Six Nations on Saturday.
The Scarlets loose forward was given the nod today by head coach Vern Cotter to replace Greig Laidlaw as skipper. The Gloucester scrum-half has been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament with the ankle injury sustained against France in Paris.
Former Glasgow Warrior Barclay has been starring for the Llanelli outfit since leaving Scotstoun in 2013 and is well versed as to what makes the Welsh tick.
“Living in Wales I know what rugby means to people there. I know the pressures they are under. There is always huge pressure on them to win. Winning is everything to them.
“That is just life in Wales for them and an accepted part of life when you’re down there.”
The 30-year-old leads his troops into battle looking to maintain the Scots’ Six Nations challenge and keep alive their Triple Crown hopes.
It will be hard to imagine a prouder Scot on Saturday as Barclay strides out the tunnel to win his 58th cap.
“We had a meeting on Sunday about it and it was quite an easy one to say ‘yes’ to,” he said.
“My family is very proud. It is a huge honour for me. I’m not overly bothered about titles. Greig is the same, all the guys who captain are the same.
“It’s an old cliché but I’d much rather we win at the weekend.”
Being named his country’s captain marks a remarkable turnaround for Barclay, with Cotter having left him out of Scotland’s 2015 World Cup squad.
“This is not about my comeback or anything else like that,” stressed the No. 6. “All we want is the victory.
“I’ve been texting Greig and will chat to him but I can’t captain like him. This week I’ve realised how much work he does in addition to what you (the media) see and what I saw as a player in the squad.
“There is a group of guys who have been working together since Vern has been in charge building that group together to make my job easier when I’m captain and make Greig’s job easier when he’s captain.”
The match in front of another sold-out BT Murrayfield promises to be a war of attrition. The hosts can go into the clash in confident mood, though the performance of the scrum will be a key element of the game.
Cotter’s side showed their mettle in the face of mounting injuries only to be edged out in the closing stages in the Stade de France.
The head coach has made five changes to the starting XV. in France but expects to once again rely on the depth of his squad.
“The bench is important to us. John came off the bench against Ireland and made a big impact and we hope the players who come off the bench have big impacts as well,” he said.
“Physicality in rugby is important. It is one of the first things you have to bring to a game. It is one of the reasons people play it. The guys really enjoy fronting up on this part of the performance.”