Updated: Jun 22, 2020
One of the key areas of the game today is the mid-field head to head clash. As a former centre myself I am fascinated by mid-field combinations but also the relationship that is forged with your fly-half.
For Scotland, young Adam Hastings has relied on Sam Johnson to provide a vital link between 10 and 12 and the one constant in Scotland’s mid-field has been the Australian born centre. When you consider he only made his debut last year he has cemented his place as a strong running attacker.
He appears to have a low centre of gravity and is able to ride tackles. His magnificent try against England last year was out the top drawer as he took on Eliot Dally and outsprinted him and Tom May over the try line. The angle of support he runs is also intuitive and because he is playing alongside his Glasgow clubmate Hastings, they are building confidence in each other’s play.
Outside him, Chris Harris has taken over in the outside berth and in this column I have sung the praises of previous players, such as Huw Jones, Duncan Taylor, Nick Grigg and Alex Dunbar who have all struggled to secure the jersey on a long-term basis. With Harris now in possession he now has his chance. Personally, I see his role very much as an organiser of the defensive line and he has showed in his games against Italy and France that he was confident executing these chores.
He also took his try well against Italy by running a hard line on the outside shoulder of the Italian defensive line. It is that change of angle that challenges defences and today’s head to head v Wales in no different. The one player that I thought might have been selected for this Championship after the debacle of the world cup was Rory Hutchinson. He for me has pace, a great step and eye for the break. His time will come but with Harries having a little bit more of a physical presence means that he is the man in possession.
Hastings has kicked more ball than he would at Glasgow but has looked very much at home playing International rugby. He has certainly taken his chance following Finn Russell’s shenanigans but on his last visit to the Principality stadium at the Doddie Weir Cup match in November 2018 he found the pace hard to handle. Today with Johnson and Harris he has a real chance to keep creating space and running angles which is exactly what he did against France in the lead up to Sean Maitland’s first try. Johnson also ran his line and delivered a perfect pass to Maitland. It is what players do day in day out at training and it is that accuracy that Scotland need to execute.
Looking at Wales, they have an experience fly-half in Dan Biggar but questions have been asked about Hadleigh Parks. Wayne Pivac has asked his players to attack slightly flatter and Parks has struggled is his execution. He is more of a traditional ball carrying 12 and was a later comer to international rugby. Personally, I like him as a player but Wales have also missed Johnathan Davies.
His injury woes have opened the position for Nick Tompkins. The Saracens player has really caught the eye since throwing his hat in with Wales having previously played age group rugby for England. He has pace and Biggar will involve him in the game but Harries will have to press his channel to put him under pressure.
The midfields also dictate the flow of play to the back 3 but Scotland have shown that they can create and score tries. Wales present a huge challenge at home but a commanding performance by the mid-field could prove to the catalyst for a historic away win.