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Gatland’s gamble: Veterans dropped for Scotland v Wales

The starting lineup for Wales’ Six Nations trip to Scotland on Saturday does not include Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau, or Justin Tipuric.

Following Wales’ humiliating loss to Ireland last week, Warren Gatland has made changes to his squad.

Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza of the Exeter Chiefs make their Six Nations debuts for Wales, and Tommy Reffell completes the new-look back row.

The only forwards who were retained in were Ken Owens, Adam Beard, and Jac Morgan.

The backline is unaltered, but Wales is beginning to shift the guard as a result of the absences in the pack.

Gatland is using the trip to Murrayfield to evaluate new players in preparation for the World Cup later this year after choosing experience over youth in the team’s opening match against Ireland.

“We need to think about what’s important in this tournament,” said Gatland.

“We lost that first game so we can’t win the Grand Slam or the Triple Crown. We still want to do well in this tournament.

“But we need to think long term as well in the next seven or eight months. We’ve got a huge disparity between those experienced players with the number of caps they’ve got and a lot of incredibly talented youngsters with a limited number of caps. We just need to find that balance.

While his Ospreys teammate Rhys Davies is set to make his Test debut off the bench, former Wales captains Jones and Tipuric have been completely left out of the matchday squad.

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One of the substitutes is Dragons tight end Leon Brown, who will play for Wales for the first time since the Championship last year.

Fresh blood for back row

In order to take a long-term approach and risk on youth, Gatland benched Faletau for the trip to Edinburgh.

The Scotland team, who defeated England at Twickenham last week, will be faced by the rookie back-row of Tshiunza, 21, Reffell, 23, and Morgan, 23. They have just 20 international appearances combined, most of which have been as replacements.

Gatland said: “We’ve made changes but tried to keep some continuity with the same backline.

“Wyn [Jones] has been working really hard in the last three weeks in camp and he gets an opportunity.

“Dafydd Jenkins comes into the second-row, looking to the future, and Christ is a great athlete.

“We’re looking at options at eight if Toby picks up an injury who’s going to cover there, so Jac gets that chance. It could have been someone like Aaron Wainwright as well.”

Gareth Thomas, a prop, is dropped, and Tomas Francis is out due to a calf injury he sustained in the first half of Ireland’s 34-10 victory in Cardiff.

Alun Wyn Jones, the holder of the world record cap, was initially excluded but became eligible after doctors determined that he had been struck in the neck rather than the head.

“We spoke to Alun Wyn before the campaign about not playing all the games as we need to see some of the youngsters in that position where we’ve got some talent, but they’re young and inexperienced,” added Gatland.

“I was delighted with the players after we named the team. There were changes but the rest of the boys were brilliant in terms of congratulating people. To me, that was a real positive in the squad.”

George North has been cleared to play after suffering a few injuries against Ireland, and Liam Williams, who came on as a late replacement for Leigh Halfpenny and scored a try, keeps his spot in the back line. Instead of Owen Williams, the Scarlets’ Rhys Patchell is listed on the bench of substitutes.

Gatland insists that Wales must develop a competitive edge over Scotland in addition to tightening up their discipline.

He said: “We’ve tried to focus on the positives and the things that we can address ourselves. We created opportunities last week but weren’t clinical enough [and] we need to start better.

“We gave away some stupid penalties and unforced penalties when we weren’t really under a lot of pressure so that’s again been an area we’ve spoken about.

“Scotland have experience in that squad, so it’s going to be a good test of the improvements that we can make from last week.”

Wales’ starting lineup is L Williams, Adams, North, Hawkins, Dyer, Biggar, T Williams, Owens (captain), Lewis, Jenkins, Beard, Tshiunza, Reffell, and Morgan.

Baldwin, Carre, Brown, Davies, Faletau, Webb, Patchell, and Cuthbert are the replacements.