Wales were dealt a second major injury blow yesterday as they departed for a make-or-break RBS 6 Nations mission against Scotland at Murrayfield. Prop Samson Lee has joined wing George North on the sidelines, missing a game Wales must win to keep alive their title hopes.
Lee suffered a knock to his head during last week’s Millennium Stadium defeat against England and was unable to complete the final component of graduated return to play protocols.
Ospreys tighthead Aaron Jarvis has replaced Lee in the starting line-up, with Cardiff Blues forward Scott Andrews named among Wales’ replacements.
Lee’s loss comes after it was decided earlier this week to rest North for the Edinburgh trip. North has been given an extended recovery period by Wales and he will not be involved in the Murrayfield encounter.
He took two heavy blows to his head during the England game, and although the Welsh Rugby Union has consistently said he has been symptom-free in terms of concussion, he is now spending time recovering.
Despite suffering a second-half implosion against England and seeing an eight-point interval lead wiped out in losing 21-16, Wales head coach Warren Gatland’s only changes have been based on rest and injury, meaning a golden opportunity for players to redeem themselves.
And Wales boast an outstanding recent record against Scotland, winning seven successive games, including a 51-3 win last season after Scottish full-back Stuart Hogg was sent off midway through the first-half in Cardiff.
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said: “We lost to England in 2011 at the Millennium Stadium and then went up to Scotland and played very well. It’s about being effective and being efficient with the ball. We know what is likely to come from Scotland, as they are playing in front of their own crowd for the first time in the Six Nations this season.
"They are confident and on the back of a tough game in France that they could have won. We are looking forward to it because we are at our best when our backs are against the wall.
“I am sure they (Scotland) will remember the last time they visited the Millennium Stadium. It’s one thing they will have on their minds. It’s one that has focused our minds. I am sure their motivation will be at its highest.”
Scotland winger Sean Lamont admits his side must win to keep alive their hopes of a first Six Nations title. “It’s our first home game and it’s important to get back on track,” said the veteran winger following last weekend’s loss in France.
“If we want to win this tournament, we need to win every game from here on out. If we can win our three home games and steal that away win, then four out of five puts you in a damn good place.”
Lamont missed the 15-8 defeat in Paris but has recovered from a calf problem to replace injured Glasgow Warriors team-mate Tommy Seymour.
And head coach Vern Cotter is hoping the 34-year-old’s experience and defensive strength can help Scotland find a way to beat Wales for the first time since 2007.
Lamont added: “It’s about sticking to our shape. When we do that well, we can challenge the best in the world.
But if we get away from our shape and try to force it too much then we can come unstuck. We know where our standards need to be. This weekend we need to do it. If you want to win the tournament, you can maybe slip up once.