THOSE who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, or so the saying goes. But, by the same token, those who obsess about it are condemned to be its captives.

Certainly, Scotland have not wasted any time this week in poring over record books which show they have never won their first two games in the Six Nations, with the last time they achieved the feat having been way back in 1996, before Italy had joined the Championship. It is a fact which provides a stark illustration of the uphill battle that the national team has fought in recent decades - but one which surely pales into irrelevance in the light of last week’s commanding win at Twickenham.

What their predecessors did or did not do in 1997, 1998 or any subsequent year will not concern the current team as they look ahead to this afternoon’s home game against Wales. What they did themselves just seven days ago is far more pertinent.

That 11-6 win, the first at the London ground since 1983, was nothing like as narrow as the scoreline suggests. Gregor Townsend’s team left a couple of tries out there in addition to the one they did score through Duhan van der Merwe, and Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg missed eight points between them with the boot - 11 if you count Russell’s perplexing drop-goal attempt.


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In other words, it was the kind of all-round commanding performance that suggests Scotland deserve to be considered as contenders for the title. But, as Hogg insisted yesterday, it will count for little or nothing in the grander scheme of things if the squad do not back it up with similar displays of excellence over the coming weeks. 

“What we’ve talked about all this week is that it was one thing being able to win, it’s another thing to be able to back it up,” the captain said in yesterday’s eve-of-match press conference. “We’re fully aware of the challenges which are coming our way against this Welsh side, but we feel we’re in a good place and we’re excited for another challenge. 

“They’re a fantastic team. They defend really well, so we’re going to have to be at our best in terms of our attacking game and our kicking game in order to break them down. And we obviously have to hold firm in defence, because they’re an exciting team with a lot of key individual talent.”

Wales have travelled to Edinburgh in high spirits thanks to their 21-16 home win over Ireland last Sunday, and if there were hints of irresolution in that performance, they have surely evaporated now. In terms of numbers the Welsh have been more severely affected by injury than the home team, with one potentially crucial absentee being centre George North, but there is a positive side to those enforced changes in the sense that a third of their team come to this match fresh rather than still carrying the bruises from the Ireland game.

And, similarly to Scotland, they are clearly an improving team. Hapless against Hogg and his team-mates in Llanelli at the end of October, when they lost 14-10, they appear to have rediscovered their way since. Head coach Wayne Pivac has yet to complete the reconstruction of his team’s playing style, but the pieces have started to fall into place.


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Scotland have travelled further in their evolution, having reacted to the disappointments of the 2019 World Cup by adopting a more pragmatic style last year as well as freshening up the coaching team. The three players they have lost to injury for this game - winger Sean Maitland, flanker Jamie Ritchie and centre Cameron Redpath - could be sorely missed, with Redpath in particular having been outstanding on his debut last week. But their replacements - Darcy Graham, Blade Thomson and James Lang respectively - all began the autumn win against the Welsh, so have positive hands-on memories of their own to draw on.  

The home team are favourites today, a position with which they are traditionally uncomfortable, which perhaps explains Hogg’s readiness to talk up his opponents’ virtues yesterday. “I know a fair amount of these Welsh boys,” he said. “They’re absolutely outstanding individuals and I think they’re going to come here full of beans. They’re ready to put in a big performance both individually and as a team.

“Some people might say they haven’t played their best rugby, but they’re still winning games. They’ve got a lot of experience in there, a lot of talent.

“There’s nine British Lions in that squad, numerous boys who have won the Grand Slam, so a hell of a lot of experience. We’re going to have to be on the money for 80 minutes and make sure we’re living in every single moment.”

If Scotland are indeed on the money to the extent they were last week, they will win. On the evidence of the first round of games, they have a greater balance to their team than Wales do, and in Graham and Van der Merwe they have two contrasting scoring threats out wide.

This is new territory for Hogg and his team-mates, and the difficulties of traversing it should not be underestimated. There is a mental barrier to be crossed as much as a physical one as they seek to make it two wins from two games. But they appear confident that they have the fortitude to succeed, and they certainly have the talent to do so.