Cardiff – Warren Gatland has warned Wales to be “mentally on our game” when they meet Scotland after the build-up to Saturday’s match was dominated by an off-the-field furore.
The fixture at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium will be played for the Doddie Weir Cup, but not a penny of the gate receipts will go to the former Scotland lock’s charity to support motor neurone disease, a condition from which he suffers.
After a public outcry, both the Welsh Rugby Union and their Scottish counterparts have agreed to donate a joint six-figure sum to Weir’s charity.
The WRU have insisted repeatedly that the game with Scotland – which takes place outside of World Rugby’s official window for November internationals – is fundamental to the financial survival of rugby union in Wales.
Wales head coach Gatland, who has returned to take charge for the match following the death of his father, has stressed the fixture will be a full-on battle and not a glorified friendly.
“We have to bring the right sort of physicality for a Test match against a Tier One nation,” he said. “Hearing the stuff that’s coming out of the Scotland camp, they are talking about the fact they got their preparation wrong the last time we met.
“That puts things in perspective for us and means we have to make sure we are mentally on our game,” the New Zealander added.
“It will be a proper Test on Saturday, I can guarantee that. We are not going out there to play festival rugby – we want to play attractive rugby, but smart and winning rugby.”
Scotland have not won in Cardiff since 2002 and were hammered 34-7 by Wales during the 2018 Six Nations.
As he bids for a Cardiff repeat, Gatland has named a side featuring eight British and Irish Lions.
Elsewhere, young props Nicky Smith and Dillon Lewis both start, while former Wales Sevens star Luke Morgan will win his first cap on the wing.
Morgan is in the Wales set-up despite having played only six games of 15-a-side rugby this season for regional side the Ospreys.
“Luke has come on and taken his chance with the Ospreys. He is scoring tries,” said Gatland.
“There is a little bit of X-Factor about him. We are looking for a bit more depth in the back three and Saturday is a great opportunity for Luke. We hope he makes the most of it.”
Scotland have recalled nine senior players who were rested for their tour of the United States and Argentina.
Backs Tommy Seymour, Lee Jones, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar and Ali Price all return to the starting XV while the in-form Adam Hastings, the son of Scotland great Gavin Hastings, will look to direct operations from flyhalf.
Up front, Jonny Gray, Willem Nel, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson have also been included.
Huw Jones, who has scored an impressive 10 tries in his 16 Tests to date, was relishing the challenge of ending Scotland’s winless streak on Welsh soil.
“Whenever the Home Nations teams face each other it is always intense,” said the centre.
“It’s a sort of derby mentality, I suppose. I’m sure the intensity will be right up there.”
“Wales are a tough team and they showed us that last time we went down there. Hopefully, Saturday will be a nice opportunity to get one back over them before the Six Nations.”
15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Steff Evans
15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (captain), 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 George Horne, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Darcy Graham