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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Surging Scots Host Winless Welshmen

LONDON -- Scotland, beaten by everybody in sight during the past 18 months, run on to Murrayfield to face Wales on Saturday, just one game away from a Five Nations' grand slam showdown against their ancient enemies England.


Headed by British Lions captain Gavin Hastings, who was himself under intense pressure after a series of indifferent displays last year, Scotland reversed a losing sequence of nine consecutive matches by beating Canada in January,


They went on to defeat Ireland then seized a famous last gasp victory over France at Parc des Princes, their first win in Paris since 1969.


Now only Wales, who have lost both their 5 Nations matches, stand between Scotland and a grand slam decider with England at Twickenham on March 18.


The nadir of a depressing year for the Scots came last November when they were beaten 34-10 by South Africa, leading to 10 changes for the Canadian match, which included axing Hastings's brother Scott.


Jim Telfer, the Scottish union's director of rugby, acknowledges changes were clearly necessary.


"The players had to take a hard look at themselves and when people like Scott Hastings were dropped -- a player who it had been taken for granted would automatically get in -- it was a great shock to some of them and made sure that they took personal responsibility for what happened on the field," Telfer said.


The victory against Ireland showed the Scots were finally coming to terms with the modern game, replacing an outmoded dependence on the ruck in favor of swift passing.


The switch in style was triumphantly vindicated in Paris, culminating in Hastings's match-winning try between the posts after a clever back-handed pass from Gregor Townsend.


Wales, as last year's championship triumph proved, have recovered much of their old passion and boast a rugged front five who fully extended England in Cardiff.


But flyhalf Neil Jenkins, although a proven match-winning goal kicker, lacks the ability to spark the backline and Wales have yet to score a try in the championship this year.


Ireland, also without a victory in the championship, have recalled Eric Elwood for their match against France in Dublin.


France, beaten in consecutive matches by England and Scotland, have made six changes for Saturday's clash.


Trainer Pierre Berbizier, understandably, is already looking past the championship towards the World Cup in South Africa. "We haven't met our goals in this tournament," he said. "It's a failure and everybody is responsible for it, including myself. Now we must put a halt to this mess and get back to work. I still believe we have the right to be ambitious."