Analysis: Nel and Watson could return for hungry Scots

For those looking to write off Scotland’s chances against Wales next weekend it would be wise to remember that Gregor Townsend’s men never stay down for long.

For those looking to write off Scotland’s chances against Wales next weekend it would be wise to remember that Gregor Townsend’s men never stay down for long.

The Guinness Six Nations Round Three defeat to France marked the first time in Townsend’s reign that Scotland have been defeated twice on the trot, making a third appear unlikely.

Scotland’s bouncebacks have often bounced highly – when pipped by New Zealand in 2017 they thumped Australia 53-24 next up and when Wales beat the Scots in last year’s Championship, France and then England, were swiftly vanquished.

The Scottish camp talked of frustration post-France but there is just a sense there is a big Championship performance due from Townsend’s men.


“I am hoping WP Nel will have some time [against Benetton] and be available for Scotland the week after. There is a good chance Hamish Watson will be the same.”

It never used to be the case that bristly Englishman Richard Cockerill would deliver good news for Scotland but it is increasingly the case for the increasingly successful Edinburgh head coach.

In the midst of a strong Guinness PRO14 season Edinburgh travel to Benetton on Saturday and the news that Nel may return is welcome for both club and country, with the prop missing since the Round One clash against Italy.

Meanwhile Watson, so good in last year’s Championship and one of the best breakdown flankers in world rugby, has been out since January and will be itching to get back into action.

Of course, neither return is certain and news is eagerly awaited on the status of key man Stuart Hogg, but Finn Russell is expected to return for Racing 92 in the Top 14 this weekend. And as Scotland look to become the first team to beat Wales since Ireland in February 2018 – good news is starting to emerge.


In the run up to the Round Four BT Murrayfield clash you are quite likely to hear the statistic that Scotland have only beaten Wales once in the last 12 years.

Rolled in with Wales’ 12-match unbeaten run and things start to sound ominous but Scotland will point out that one win came in this very fixture two years ago.

It was the home side who were the 29-13 victors in Edinburgh in February 2017 and what a game it was too, with the Scots swaggering back from a sluggish first half to down the fast-starting Welsh.

Liam Williams bagged a first-half-try, finishing off a slick move, before Russell got his boot going to cut the deficit to 13-9 at the break.

Second-half tries for Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser electrified BT Murrayfield as 20 unanswered points came – glorious works of art that the Edinburgh crowds will hope to see recreated soon enough.


While Townsend may wish his country’s Championship had gone slightly differently so far one man who is consistently standing out is back-three player Blair Kinghorn.

The 22-year-old currently tops three statistics in this year’s Championship – most carries, metres gained and clean breaks – astonishing stuff for a man of his age, who only started two of the games.

Following his amazing first-round hat-trick Kinghorn is in with a shout of being the Championship’s top tryscorer – if Scotland can turn it on against Wales the youngster just has the feel of someone who can claim this gong.

Kinghorn’s 187 metres were also the most of any player in Round Three and the highest total of any player in the Championship so far – underlying statistics hinting at big things to come.