Wednesday 26 September 2018

Webb: Laidlaw injury 'massive loss' for Scots

Wales’ Rhys Webb. Photo: Stephen McCarth /Sportsfile
Wales’ Rhys Webb. Photo: Stephen McCarth /Sportsfile

Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb has described the absence of Greig Laidlaw from Scotland's remaining Six Nations games as "a massive loss."

Webb would have been in direct opposition to the Scotland skipper and number nine at Murrayfield on Saturday, but an ankle ligament injury suffered against France 10 days ago ended Laidlaw's tournament.

And in a double setback, Scotland also saw number eight Josh Strauss hurt during the same game, and he now joins Laidlaw on the sidelines.

While Scotland will be in upbeat mood following a superb victory over Ireland and narrow loss to France, Laidlaw has undoubtedly left a considerable void through his all-round game and prodigious goalkicking.

"Them losing Greig is a massive loss - as a leader and as a kicker as well," said Webb, who lines up in a Wales team showing one change following the defeat against England last time out, with fit-again wing George North replacing Alex Cuthbert.

"His accuracy off the tee is pretty impressive, so whoever replaces him will be putting in a lot of practice this week."

Ali Price looks set to take over from Laidlaw, and Webb added: "He has been playing in the Glasgow team which has been full of confidence last season and this season.

"He has a good understanding with Finn Russell at nine and 10, so he is likely to start.

"They have got lots of attacking threats, so they will want to play some rugby as well, especially with Finn Russell at 10. He has been pulling the strings for Glasgow, and Stuart Hogg has been carving it up for the last two games."

North, meanwhile, has recovered from a leg injury that sidelined him for Wales' 21-16 loss to reigning Six Nations champions England earlier this month.

North, scorer of 28 tries in 66 Tests for his country, was hurt during Wales' Six Nations opener against Italy 17 days ago.

Although he was then named to face England, he did not recover in time, with Cardiff Blues wing Cuthbert being called up.

Wales boss Rob Howley has retained a back row of Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty, with 63 times-capped number eight Taulupe Faletau again on the bench.

And there is one switch among the replacements, as Faletau's Bath colleague Luke Charteris is involved for the first time in Wales' current Six Nations campaign.

Charteris has been unavailable due to a fractured hand, but he has regained full fitness and takes over as second-row cover from Newport Gwent Dragons lock Cory Hill.

In terms of the back-row mix, Moriarty was arguably Wales' outstanding performer against England, while flankers Warburton and Tipuric have also been in prime form, so it is no surprise that Howley has gone for the same starting trio.

Faletau, as a result of two knee injuries, has made only a couple of 80-minute appearances for his club this term, yet he will offer a considerable impact off the bench at Murrayfield, if required.

Howley said: "We have been able to select from a position of strength, which is a huge positive, and it is good to welcome George back into the starting XV and Luke on the bench.

"In terms of intensity and performance, we stepped up a level against England, and we need to take the positives from that performance and take it into 80 minutes against Scotland at Murrayfield.

"We know what we are capable of, and we want to deliver that on Saturday alongside the result, which international rugby is all about."

Despite the England defeat, Wales remain in Six Nations title contention, and they will head to Edinburgh aiming for a 10th successive victory over Scotland.

Wales have not lost in the fixture since seven Chris Paterson penalties condemned them to a 21-9 defeat in 2007, a run which has included four Murrayfield victories on the bounce.

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