The Wales squad on their captain's run ahead of tomorrow's fixture against Scotland. Credit: Caleb Tutt

How unfancied Wales can start their 2024 Six Nations campaign with a win

The roof is on and the gloves are off for Wales’ opening match against Scotland in Cardiff

AN inexperienced Wales squad open their 2024 Six Nations campaign tomorrow against Scotland under the roof at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.

A squad already much changed by retirements since last year’s World Cup also faces significant absences, including the losses of veteran full-back Liam Williams, Taulupe Faletau, former captains Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake, and Wales’ third most-capped player of all time George North, all out injured.

Wales face an in-form Scottish side, but if Wales get their game right in some vital areas they can start their campaign off in in a winning way.

The roof of the Principality will be closed

Wales’ stalwart lock Adam Beard said the team is happy about the closure of the roof: “It’s massive, the buzz, the noise, everything about it is just unbelievable. It’s something you can’t really explain, that feeling of passion, pride. It’s like having an extra man out on that field.”

After a stand-off in the week over whether or not to close the roof of the Principality Stadium, the Scots relented earlier today, gifting Wales their famous closed-roof atmosphere on the opening weekend.

Drier turf gives the young backs more scope to play

Sam Costelow (left) will get his first start at fly-half with Gareth Anscombe out injured. Credit: Holly Morgan.

With rain forecast for tomorrow afternoon’s game, a closed roof and dry turf will change the nature of the game for both teams. The backs on both sides will be looking to play the width of the field, something that should excite the talented young backs on the Welsh side.

Among those looking to impress is starting full-back Cameron Winnett, who will win his first cap tomorrow.

On Winnett, Beard said: “He looks sharp. He’s been a good kid, worked hard, just got his head down.”

Although Wales coach Warren Gatland has insisted that there is “no pressure” on debutant Winnett, his performance will certainly be under the microscope. Dry turf will help his performance, as well as the rest of the Welsh back three.

A home crowd advantage

The Welsh side to face Scotland is young and inexperienced. The starting XV average 28 caps, whereas the side that faced Argentina in their World Cup exit last October averaged 53.

With the retirement of former captain Dan Biggar, and with veteran forward Taulupe Faletau out injured, a young side will need as much support as they can muster.

Beard says playing at the Principality Stadium with “the noise, the atmosphere, it makes it ten times better.”

Wales follow this weekend’s match with two successive away fixtures in London and Dublin. Starting the campaign with fresh hopes and a home crowd will give this young side a boost.

Scottish absentees

The Wales squad warm up with shuttle runs on the try line. Credit: Holly Morgan.

Blair Kinghorne, Darcy Graham, and co-captain Rory Darge will all miss the opening match in Cardiff. Graham’s unpredictability will not be missed by the Welsh defence, especially given the drier conditions under the roof.

Despite their size, the Welsh camp will have done their homework on Kyle Steyn and Scotland’s poster-boy Duhan van der Merwe.

Wales will be looking to start off their Six Nations campaign with a home win to put the wind in their sails before tests against England and Ireland.

A young squad facing low expectation may just give the side the blank canvass on which to produce a masterpiece.

When asked if Wales can surprise the critics this tournament, Beard responded: “One hundred percent.”