MUCH of the talk ahead of Scotland’s clash with Wales tomorrow may have been of a potential postponement as a result of the coronavirus crisis, but head coach Gregor Townsend insists his side has prepared as normal this week.

The game between Wales and Scotland is the only fixture of the final weekend of the Six Nations that has survived the spate of postponements across the sporting world that saw the Italy-England and France-Ireland matches called off until later in the year.

And while the chaos caused by the coronavirus is on everyone’s lips, Townsend is choosing to carry on as normal until someone with more authority than him on these matters says anything different.

“We hope we get to play this weekend but we understand if that’s not the case, it’s for serious reasons,” he said.

“We are at the behest of the policy-makers and so far things have been put in place that the game will go ahead.

“I think everyone involved in sport will know if it’s time to either not play the game or play the games behind closed doors, and that’s what we’ll follow. Up until then, as a coach and as players, you’ve got to prepare to play a massive game. We’re very close to that happening.

“We’ll prepare as if we’re playing it in front of a full house in a very difficult venue, an iconic venue to play rugby, and if anything changes we’ll have to adapt.”

Townsend has made three changes to his side to face Wales, with hooker Stuart McInally, number 8 Magnus Bradbury and second-row Sam Skinner all coming into the starting 15, with Bradbury and Skinner making their first starts of this Six Nations campaign.

Nick Haining, who has had an impressive tournament so far, drops out of the squad due to illness – although not coronavirus - and the head coach was quick to point out how unlucky Haining is after being such an important member of the squad in recent weeks

“Nick Haining was struggling after last weekend with an illness, and given the six-day turnaround we felt it was better to go with Magnus and Matt Fagerson who were 100 per cent fit and fresh,” Townsend said.

“It’s tough on Nick as he may have recovered in time for the game at the weekend and he’s done really well in this Six Nations and added real depth to our back row.”

Scotland go to the Principality Stadium aiming to win three consecutive games for the first time in this championship since 1996. Their victories over Italy and then France were impressive but to make it three in a row will be no easy feat, particularly considering Scotland’s dire run of form in Cardiff, not having won there since 2002.

However, Townsend insists he is not too worried about Scotland’s record against the Welsh, although he would love to see his side buck the recent trend, which would see them top the Six Nations table, temporarily at least.

“Wales are the Six Nations champions and came very close to making a World Cup final - they are a very experienced team, a very proud nation with an excellent record against us, so this is a huge challenge for us – our biggest challenge that we face this year against a team that will be desperate to do well,” he said.

“I don’t know if we play particularly badly against Wales – we’ve not got a good record against them but we’ve got a similar record away from home to England, France and Ireland.

“Back in 2010 we should have won but since then, we haven’t come close. It’s down to our failings of not playing our best rugby when we’re in Cardiff but also it’s down to the Wales team who over the past few years have been excellent.”

This Six Nations has uncovered a few gems in the Scotland side, none more so than Rory Sutherland, who was something of surprise pick when the squad was announced in January having been out the sport for a considerable time due to a serious hip injury.

However, the Edinburgh Rugby prop has put in some almighty shifts this tournament and Townsend admitted he has been thrilled, as well as a little taken aback, at how seamlessly the 27-year-old has slotted into the squad.

“I’ve been really impressed,” said Townsend of Sutherland.

“With Rory having not played for so long, he’s been one of our biggest bonuses – or surprises you could say – that he’s taken his chance and thrived at international level both at the set-piece, and in attack and defence.

"Players usually take longer to get use to international rugby, but he has certainly grabbed his opportunity this time.”

Another hugely impressive aspect of Scotland’s tournament has been their defence, which has the best record of all six teams this Six Nations. Another strong performance will be needed if the Scots are to depart Cardiff with a win but Townsend is confident his men will relish the challenge.

“Jamie (Ritchie) and Hamish (Watson) have got better every game and there’s still more to come from both of them," he said.

“They played in the back row when we played Wales in the autumn about 18 months ago and played really well against a good Welsh back row.

“So they know the quality of the opposition we’re up against. We’re going up against some of the best players in the game and the back-row will need to take the same levels they’re playing at and take it to another level, another 10-per-cent better.”