Warren Gatland acknowledged fortune was on Wales' side as they held off a fierce Scotland fightback to triumph 18-11 at Murrayfield and move to the brink of Grand Slam glory in the Six Nations.

Tries from Josh Adams and Jonathan Davies put Gatland's men in control on Saturday and they were 15-6 up at the interval, despite Gareth Anscombe striking the post with a routine penalty attempt late in the first half.

However, a Scotland side hampered by the injury-enforced withdrawals of their entire back three dominated the second period, meaning the visitors were forced to hang on in order to extend their winning run to 13 Tests.

Wales can now complete a third Grand Slam under Gatland by beating reigning champions Ireland in Cardiff next weekend.

The head coach told the BBC: "We struggled in the second half but I spoke to the guys afterwards and said when you look back and you've won a Grand Slam there's always probably one game you look and go 'that was a little bit lucky'. That was definitely today.

"It was pretty nerve-wracking. They got some penalties and some momentum and put us under a lot of pressure.

"We've got a dream at the moment and we'll start planning for next week. This group of guys have forgotten how to lose. Winning becomes a habit ... and so hopefully that continues next week."

Gatland and his players saw their preparations for the Scotland clash blighted by chaotic goings-on in the Welsh domestic game, with talk of a proposed merger between the Scarlets and Ospreys creating significant uncertainty and anger.

Asked if the turmoil had been a factor in Wales not being at their best in Edinburgh, Gatland added: "There is no doubt about that. Players on their phones and texting, ringing home and going to meetings and talking to people in their clubs. That undoubtedly has an impact, but I'm proud of them for the way that they got themselves out of that, dug deep and showed some real character.

"We need to sort those issues out as quickly as possible."

Wales stand one win away from a Grand Slam in Warren Gatland's final Six Nations campaign, after they battled to an 18-11 victory over injury-hit Scotland at Murrayfield.

First-half tries from Josh Adams and Jonathan Davies ultimately proved enough to secure victory for Wales, but they were made to work incredibly hard by opponents who suffered abysmal luck on Saturday.

Already shorn of star full-back Stuart Hogg, Scotland lost their entire starting back three to injury during the contest, with Tommy Seymour, Blair Kinghorn and try-scorer Darcy Graham all forced off.

Gregor Townsend's men were nevertheless the much stronger team after the interval, but Wales clung on for a 13th win in a row and can now complete a third Grand Slam under Gatland, who will leave his role following this year's World Cup, when they host reigning champions Ireland in Cardiff next Saturday.

In the lead-up to this fixture, Gatland said his players had been distracted by talk of a proposed merger between the Ospreys and Scarlets, but Wales looked totally focused as they built a 15-6 lead in the opening 40 minutes. 

Scotland started well and took the lead through an 11th-minute penalty from the fit-again Finn Russell, but Wales hit back immediately with the game's first try, Adams surging past Kinghorn on the left flank after taking a pass from Davies that appeared forward.

Things were soon looking bleak for the hosts, who lost Seymour and Kinghorn either side of Davies rounding off a superb 24-phase move to extend Wales' lead, after Russell and Gareth Anscombe had exchanged three-pointers.

However, Scotland fought back impressively after the interval and Graham - who had produced a wonderful jinking run in the first half to no avail - went over on the right flank to narrow his side's deficit to four points, following an injury that forced Wales full-back Liam Williams to be replaced.

Graham was the next man to join the casualty list after a clumsy Adams knock-on prevented Wales from converting a great opportunity on the counter-attack, but Scotland remained firmly on the front foot as a tense contest neared its conclusion.

Wales were not to be denied, though, and their clinical display was summed up when Anscombe landed an 80th-minute penalty after waves of Scotland pressure had been repelled.

Lewis Moody expects "reeling" England to take their frustration out on Italy on Saturday with a "big point to prove" after a Six Nations defeat to Wales that could cost them the title.

England's Grand Slam bid went up in smoke when they squandered a 10-3 half-time lead to go down 21-13 in Cardiff a fortnight ago.

Eddie Jones' side offered little to nothing in attack during the second half as Wales hit back to replace them at the top of the table with two rounds remaining.

Moody wants to see England come out firing at Twickenham, where they face an Italy side that has lost 20 consecutive matches in the tournament.

Speaking on behalf of Land Rover, Moody told Omnisport: "Italy are on a road to nowhere, on a long losing run and without a win against England. So, in a sense, England are in a no-win situation because they are expected to hammer them.

"They really will feel they have a big point to prove after what happened in Cardiff, though and there needs to be a massive response.

"The England boys will know they should have won that game. They are a better team than Wales and it was there to be won. It was massively frustrating to watch as they dominated the first half.

"There was a chance to really put a nail in the coffin by getting a try just before half-time but they failed to do that. Wales went in jubilant  then, credit to them, they came out and turned it around.

"England are a better team than Wales and it was a bitter blow to see their Grand Slam hopes ended, it should not have happened and they will be reeling. 

"There should be a response and, although I don't see Scotland beating Wales, they will face a big test against Ireland, so if England can pick up two bonus-point wins it is still there for them."

 

Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover shares and understands the values of rugby. @LandRoverRugby.

Scott Hastings believes there will be a "sting in the tale" in the battle for the Six Nations title but warned Scotland must "find their mojo" to have any chance of derailing Wales' Grand Slam bid.

Wales will take to the famous Murrayfield turf on Saturday sitting pretty at the top of the table after beating England in Cardiff, while back-to-back defeats have left Scotland down in fifth spot.

England are just two points adrift of Wales with two matches to play, while Ireland are three behind the leaders and face Warren Gatland's side on the final weekend.

Hastings does not believe it will be all plain sailing for Wales as they attempt to dethrone Ireland, but the former Scotland centre says Gregor Townsend's men will have to raise their game if they are to put a spanner in the works.

He told Omnisport: "Gatland and Wales will know Scotland are going to come out absolutely fighting for every inch of the turf at Murrayfield and they still have to go home and play Ireland.

"What a bumper finish it could be to the championship. If Scotland were to blow Wales open then the whole championship is back on to be played for.

"I still think there is going to be a sting in the tale in the Six Nations, whether Scotland are going to be involved in that I don't know. They will certainly be underdogs, but they must seek that to their advantage and try and deliver a performance that Scottish rugby is crying out for."

Ex-British and Irish Lion Hastings believes Scotland have gone backwards after finishing third last year and says they must show what they are capable of.

"I think they have regressed a wee bit. They are going to have to find their mojo and find it against Wales. Wales are not going to make life easy so Scotland have to try a dictate a game, take their opportunities." he added.

"They showed in the last 20 minutes against France they can create opportunities, they have a bit of firepower off the bench. It needs a far greater performance than what has been delivered so far."

 

- Hastings is a supporter of the 'My Name'5 Doddie Foundation', launched by his former team-mate Doddie Weir to aid research into Motor Neurone Disease. For more information on the foundation visit https://www.myname5doddie.co.uk/

Alun Wyn Jones says Wales' players will seek an explanation for off-field chaos which has overshadowed the build-up to the crunch clash with Scotland when the Six Nations ends.

There was a feel-good factor in Welsh rugby following the win a victory over England that put Warren Gatland's side top of the table, but talk of a merger between the Scarlets and the Ospreys brought an air of uncertainty to the squad this week.

On Wednesday, the Scarlets declared a proposal for the rival regions to unite was "off the table" after the Ospreys had a late change of heart.

Wales captain and Ospreys lock Jones said the turmoil has disrupted the players, but they remain focused on the job in hand ahead of Saturday's round-four encounter at Murrayfield.

"There are no words I can say about anything that's happened this week." said the talismanic skipper.

"You don't want to be too profound. We're aware it's not just about the guys in the national squad, it's the guys in the regions as well and their staff.

"For us it's not a case of carry on regardless, it's a case of being sympathetic to the situation. We want a few more answers after the Six Nations, but we've got a job to get on with.

"It has been tough. We've been a bit splintered this campaign, but there has been communication with the senior group and we've tried to reassure as much as we can. It is difficult when we don't know the full situation.

"Whatever career you are in, you always have other distractions. Ultimately, we are professional rugby people and we focus on the rugby, that's the easy bit. We are not politicians, so we don't have to delve too much into that."

 

Wales enter the fourth round of the Six Nations in familiar territory as they prepare to face Scotland. 

Stuart McInally will captain Scotland for the third time on Saturday after Greig Laidlaw was dropped to the bench for their Six Nations showdown with Wales.

Laidlaw's place in the side had been called into question following back-to-back defeats to Ireland and France and head coach Gregor Townsend has wielded the axe for the clash with the leaders at Murrayfield.

Ali Price replaces the skipper at scrum-half as Townsend makes four changes following the loss to Les Bleus, Finn Russell recovering from a head injury to return at fly-half.

Pete Horne moves to inside centre at the expense of Sam Johnson, while wing Darcy Graham will make his first start in the absence of Sean Maitland (foot).

Prop WP Nel returns from a calf injury, with Simon Berghan named among the replacements as Scotland bid to derail Wales' bid for a Grand Slam in the penultimate round.

Jonny Gray and Tommy Seymour will win their 50th caps. 

 

Scotland: Blair Kinghorn, Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Pete Horne, Darcy Graham, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Allan Dell, Stuart McInally (captain), WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Josh Strauss.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Hamish Watson, Greig Laidlaw, Adam Hastings, Byron McGuigan.

 

Warren Gatland said there is "no doubt" Wales' players have been affected by a proposed merger between the Scarlets and the Ospreys ahead of their Six Nations clash with Scotland on Saturday.

The newly-formed Professional Rugby Board (PRB) are to discuss plans for a radical change to regional rugby in Wales, which could see the introduction of a club in the north of the country and one less team in the south.

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) chief executive Martyn Phillips addressed Gatland's Grand Slam hopefuls on Monday to discuss the issue, which Wales' head coach stressed has been driven by the regions rather than the governing body.

Gatland has urged his squad not to lose focus as they eye a Grand Slam but says the uncertainty has understandably had an effect on the group.

"There's no doubt the players have been distracted. It is concerning. Players have been going home and asked question by wives and partners what's going on," said the New Zealander.

"Our message to the players is we need to wait and see what the outcome of the PRB meeting is going to be, the conclusion between the four regions and the union collectively. It's a joint decision. You try and put players' minds to rest and focus on winning the Six Nations.

"It's been a challenge for the players. That's why we had Martyn Phillips here yesterday addressing the squad.

"The PRB involves the four regions and the union. This hasn't been driven by the union, it was approached by two regions about a merger because some of the difficulties we are aware of because of the financial pressures."

He added: "The timing isn't brilliant but the players have been professional. If a team does end up in north Wales, it's going to be challenging for players who may go up there but from a Welsh perspective I see it as a massive opportunity.

"There's a million people and big businesses up there. Our crowds aren't big enough. A team in north Wales may be a positive outcome for Welsh rugby long term.

"I want to reiterate it has not been driven by the WRU but by the regions. There's been a lot of criticism of the WRU in the last 48 hours but a lot of it is misinformation.

"People want to take a breath. We need to work together for the best solution for the game in Wales."

Adam Beard has replaced the injured Cory Hill in the only change to the Wales side to face Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Lock Hill was ruled out of the tournament after damaging his ankle while scoring a try in the victory over England last time out.

Beard steps up from the bench to start at Murrayfield, where Warren Gatland's side will attempt to stay on course for a Grand Slam.

Jake Ball has been named among the replacements along with Dan Biggar, who impressed after coming on for Gareth Anscombe in the second half against Eddie Jones' side.

There is no place in the squad for full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who recently returned from concussion.

Wales announced their team two days earlier than expected amid uncertainty over the future of Scarlets and Ospreys, after it was reported they are set to merge.

 

Wales: Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Aaron Wainwright, Aled Davies, Dan Biggar, Owen Watkin.

Scott Hastings says captain Greig Laidlaw must show he deserves a place in Scotland side against Wales after some "mediocre" Six Nations performances.

Scotland have been licking their wounds after suffering back-to-back defeats to Ireland and France following a 33-20 victory over Italy.

Hastings, the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions centre, wants to see Laidlaw and other senior players stand up and be counted when they come up against the leaders at Murrayfield on Saturday.

He told Omnisport: "Scotland are misfiring at the moment and whilst we can look at the injury list - which has been significant - there is enough experience in Gregor Townsend's wider squad for the senior players to stand up and deliver.

"Unfortunately for some reason they are not firing. Apart from a pretty solid 60 minutes against Italy and a reasonably solid half against Ireland, Scotland have played very little good rugby in the championship.

"The likes of Laidlaw, Jonny Gray, Stuart McInally, Tommy Seymour, they are not coming out with standout performances. They are just coming out with a mediocre performance. It's difficult sometimes on the international field - I know from my experience - sometimes you go out there and you can't get into the game.

"But if you consider 12 months ago Scotland were hammering England at Murrayfield. Scotland have got to wake up and wake up soon as the match against Wales and the daunting trip to face England at Twickenham, it could be a horrendous finish, but equally it could be a glorious finish if they can find the levels of intensity."

Hastings wants to see Laidlaw pull the strings if head coach Townsend keeps faith with the skipper.

"At the moment there are a few fingers being pointed at Laidlaw and questions over whether he should start," Hastings added.

"He needs a big game and certainly when I've questioned whether he should be in the team, he has produced a performance and he needs to deliver. But also does Jonny Gray keep his place? Matt Fagerson may come into the front row alongside Allan Dell."

He added of Laidlaw: "It's a really difficult one. Do you drop your captain? When Scotland are looking for confidence, what sort of message does that send out to this team? We knew in the past Gregor Townsend hasn't shirked responsibility. It will be a fascinating selection.

"If Laidlaw plays he is going to have to show why he is captain and why he is number one scrum-half with a performance out of the top drawer, because he has Ali Price snapping away at his heels and young George Horne - who always adds impetus to a game - wanting to be part of that Scotland set-up."

 

- Hastings is a supporter of the 'My Name'5 Doddie Foundation', launched by his former team-mate Doddie Weir to aid research into Motor Neurone Disease. For more information on the foundation visit https://www.myname5doddie.co.uk/

Stuart Hogg will sit out Scotland's Six Nations clash with Grand Slam hopefuls Wales at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Glasgow Warriors full-back Hogg sustained a shoulder problem following a challenge from Peter O'Mahony in the 22-13 defeat to Ireland on February 9.

Gregor Townsend welcomed the return of five previously injured players to his squad ahead of this weekend's match, but Hogg was not among them.

A Scottish Rugby statement read: "Full-back Stuart Hogg will not join the squad in the camp this week as he is not being considered for this Saturday's game against Wales, following the shoulder injury he sustained against Ireland in the second round of the championship.

"He remains under the joint care of the Glasgow Warriors and Scotland medical teams, with his rehabilitation progress and review ongoing."

However, fly-half Finn Russell is in line to return after playing 65 minutes in Racing 92's 50-14 win over La Rochelle on Saturday.

Russell sustained a head injury while in Top 14 action on February 17 and consequently missed Scotland's 27-10 victory over France the following weekend.

Hamish Watson, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Stafford McDowall and Grant Stewart have all returned to the Scotland set-up, with Matt Fagerson, Byron McGuigan and Gordon Reid added by Townsend.

George Horne, D'Arcy Rae, George Turner and Chris Dean drop out due to injury, while Alex Allan, Rob Harley, John Hardie and Duncan Weir have been released back to their clubs.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont says no decision has been made over controversial plans for a World Rugby League which has led to talk of Pacific Island nations boycotting the World Cup.

The governing body is said to be proposing a revamped international calendar, with the introduction of an annual 12-team competition starting next year.

Nations competing in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, as well as another two top-ranked sides are claimed to be part of the new-look league, prompting concerns that the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will be overlooked.

Beaumont says nothing has been finalised and he will host a meeting to discuss the proposals this month.

"In light of continued speculation and commentary, I am convening a meeting of chairmen and CEOs from tier one unions, Fiji and Japan and player representatives in Dublin later this month to consider the way forward for an annual international competition." said the former England captain.

"Contrary to reports, no decisions have been made. This is an ongoing and complex process with multiple stakeholders, some with differing views.

"Only by working together in the interests of the global game can we achieve something truly impactful in this important area for rugby’s future global growth. I look forward to a constructive debate with my colleagues and productive outcomes."

World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton and New Zealand captain Kieran Read are among those to voice their disapproval over the potential changes, with fears about the workload put on players.

Wales will be without lock Cory Hill for their two remaining Six Nations matches due to an ankle injury.

The second row scored the opening try for Warren Gatland's side in a 21-13 victory over England, but limped off a few minutes later after doing damage while dotting down at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Hill will play no part in the trip to Murrayfield to face Scotland on March 9 or Wales' final match of the tournament against Ireland in Cardiff.

Adam Beard, who started the victory over France in Paris, replaced Hill and is the obvious choice to start against Gregor Townsend's men.

Wales are top of the table with three wins out of three, two points ahead of England.

Eddie Jones felt England paid the price for ill-discipline and too many players having an off day as their Six Nations Grand Slam hopes went up in smoke in Wales.

Having beaten Ireland and France in their opening two fixtures, England fell to a 21-13 defeat in Cardiff as Wales maintained their own chances of completing the Slam.

Cory Hill and Josh Adams crossed in the second half to help complete a record 12th consecutive Test victory for Warren Gatland's side, who trailed 10-3 at the break with Tom Curry scoring for England.

And England coach Jones says his side fell short in the finer points of the game. 

"It was one of those nip and tuck games and it's a game of small margins," he told BBC Sport. 

"We let ourselves down in a couple of areas. They beat us in the air, the penalty count was strongly against us and that gives the opposition field position and the chance to score and that's what happened.

"It's a tough game and I don't know whether we lost our heads, but they put us under a lot of pressure. You're always going to get some tough calls away from home and that happened."

Captain Owen Farrell admitted he did not have his best game in an England jersey, but Jones says the team collectively did not hit top gear.

"I just think a few of our players were a bit off and that happens sometimes," he added. 

"That's the great thing about rugby, you never know what will happen. Full credit to Wales they deserved the win and played very well."

Warren Gatland says Wales are happy to "keep going along under the radar" ahead of the Rugby World Cup after claiming a historic win over England to go top of the Six Nations table.

Wales came from 10-3 down at half-time to secure a 21-13 victory at a raucous Principality Stadium on Saturday, Cory Hill and Josh Adams scoring the decisive tries.

Gatland's side have now won a record 12 consecutive Tests and lead England by two points with clashes against Scotland and Ireland to come.

When asked about Wales being contenders to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan, Gatland told BBC Sport: "Apparently not for a lot of pundits out there.

"We just keep our head down and keep going along under the radar. It's a pretty special group of boys at the moment."

Gatland was impressed by the way his side stepped it up in the second half of a titanic tussle, after being second best in the opening 40 minutes.

"We created a lot of problems for ourselves in the first half and I don't think England created anything really. They didn't put us under any pressure, it was pressure we put on ourselves." he added.

"We were much better in the second half and we got stronger as the game went on. 

"I spoke to the guys in the changing rooms and said the pain we went through last week and how hard we trained really paid off today.

"We worked a lot on our pick and go; we thought that was an opportunity to exploit England in that area. Our aerial game was really good, we did a lot of work on that, and I thought tactically [in the] second half we were really good."

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