Scotland will beat Wales by nine points at Murrayfield on Saturday, a former Lion with an unbeaten record in four Edinburgh instalments of the fixture today claimed.
Kenny Milne, capped 39 times, was part of a Scottish team which consistently swept aside Wales in Edinburgh from 1989-95 when their smallest victory margin during this period was 13 points.
Since those heady days which also produced a 20-0 whitewash of the men from the Principality the professional era has arrived and Scotland have fared less well; in fact, they have beaten Wales only once in the last ten encounters.
However, Milne feels a corner has been turned under interim coach Scott Johnson.
“Scotland have had a wee touch of luck in their last couple of games and that has helped confidence to grow. The improvement has been nice to see as so often the Scotland team haven’t been getting the breaks.”
This is borne out by comparing statistics from the latest encounter with Ireland when Scotland were under the cosh in terms of possession, territory, line-breaks and ability to beat an opponent – yet won.
On the other hand when England posted a victory on their last visit to Murrayfield the opposite was the case. Then the Scots had 68 per cent possession, 72 per cent territory, made nine clean breaks to one and beat their marker 14 times only to suffer a 13-6 defeat.
Milne added: “I expect Wales to string together attacks out wide and try to get their bigger players running at the likes of Tim Visser and Sean Maitland to try to expose them.
“But I am more optimistic that Scotland can deal with this kind of threat than I would have been six months ago. Of course Ireland should have been shot for the way they wasted possession a fortnight ago but credit where due and some Scottish sides would have crumbled under the sort of pressure Kelly Brown’s team were subjected to.”
Captain Brown is expected to be named for a third successive game at openside flanker when he seems more suited to playing blindside or No. 8. That is a worrying situation particularly given the form displayed by Wales’s No. 7, Justin Tipuric, but Milne feels Scotland can nullify the threat with another big scrummaging display.
“I don’t think the ref gave Scotland the benefit of the doubt at the scrum last time and we were fairly hard done by in terms of the penalty count.
“Alright, there was a bit of good fortune in avoiding a second yellow card when an Irish forward was taken out in the air, but the ability to ride luck was a feature of the last game and Wales won’t have a huge amount of confidence.
“The won in Italy and France but their first half against Ireland was poor, even if they did recover later.”
The prospect of enhancing Lions tour prospects is another incentive according to Milne, who was the combined side’s hooker for the 1993 tour of New Zealand when he played in the opening Test.
“Ryan Grant has a good shout and Jim Hamilton put his hand up last time. At least three or four Scots will now be feeling optimistic and I’m wondering if Tim Visser’s attacking threat might get him on the plane.”
However, Milne’s upbeat assessment is at variance with the view from the valleys as expressed by 87 times capped Welsh winger, Shane Williams.
“I see Wales winning,” said Williams, who maintained: “Scotland play a type of game which I think will play into Wales’ hands in that, under (Scott) Johnson, they are trying to be more expansive.
“But I believe we have a better backline and a more skilful set of forwards.
“It would be great, though, to see Wales come up with a massive performance, register a convincing win that featured some nice tries.
“They are gaining in confidence, but that would send them into the England match with a real spring in their step.”
That was a reference to how the Championship is not yet cut and dried despite England showing impressive form.
If Scotland were to win on Saturday they would then go to their final fixture in France on Saturday week hoping for a replay of their 1999 Five Nations Championship winning season when victory and an England defeat at the hands of Wales could still give them the title.