Coronavirus has begun to have a huge impact across the sporting calendar, but for now the Six Nations has one of its three fixtures going ahead this weekend.
While England’s trip to play Italy in Rome and Ireland’s visit to Paris to face France have been postponed due to the outbreak, Wales are still set to take on Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday.
It’s an unfortunate backdrop for what will be an intriguing contest at the Principality Stadium – albeit one with unknown importance to the overall Six Nations standings.
After suffering successive defeats against England, France and Ireland this is a significant game for Wales and their head coach Wayne Pivac.
Pivac deserves patience
Pivac was handed a difficult job, succeeding a coach of Warren Gatland’s stature on the back of a World Cup semi-final and a Six Nations Grand Slam in a country which has a demanding rugby-loving public to please.
There is no doubt that Wales have underachieved in the tournament, but the fixtures in Dublin and at Twickenham were always going to be tough asks for them.
Despite the results, I don’t think Wales are too far off turning the corner under Pivac. He and No2 Stephen Jones are good coaches who had success at Scarlets and in time I believe they will improve the team, which is still full of class players.
For me, Wales have been the most entertaining side to watch over the tournament, with their narrow 33-30 loss to England and 27-23 defeat by France the best matches by far.
Bizarrely, considering they sit in fifth place, I actually think they are in a good place and should not panic. It is just the small things which have been going against them.
Pivac has handed a first start in nearly two and a half years to Rhys Webb at No9 and he will bring a different dimension at the back of the scrum.
Webb, who has only been absent because he’s been ineligible for selection while playing at Toulon, will pose a threat to Scotland by sniping around the fringes.
I also think his presence will alleviate some pressure on Dan Biggar, who is a brilliant tactician, solid in the tackle and under the high ball, but maybe not a naturally creative fly-half.
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will win his 148th international cap on Saturday, drawing level with former New Zealand captain Richie McCaw’s record. It is some achievement, especially playing in a position as attritional as the second row.
It is even more impressive when you consider Jones is still there on merit as one of the best in the world in his position.
He leads the tackle count and never looks off the pace while also offering invaluable experience and leadership qualities to his team.
Scotland come into their final game off the back of a 28-17 win over France, but I’m still far from convinced by Gregor Townsend’s side.
France capitulated last weekend, incurring a red card as well as dropping passes and conceding penalties, and I don’t think Wales will make the same mistakes.