IF, as expected, Grant Gilchrist is named in the Scotland team for this weekend’s trip to Wales when it is announced at lunchtime today, it will mean the 31-year-old second-row is going to bring up the half century of international appearances at the Principality Stadium on Saturday afternoon – and if there is one thing he has learned from all that time competing at the sharp end of the game since his debut against France back in 2013 then it is that being a gallant loser is nowhere near as much fun as being a pragmatic winner. 

This weekend, Scotland will look to build on their Six Nations opening weekend victory over England, which was achieved off the back of resolute defence and two pieces of precision attack, and according to Gilchrist the plan is for the team to produce more of the same … but better.   

Wales will be low on confidence after coming a distant second-best in Dublin in their campaign opener, but high on motivation in front of their own fans after a week of bitter recrimination. It is a venue Scotland have not won at since 2002, and Gilchrist acknowledged that Gregor Townsend’s team are going to have to meet fire with fire if they are to avoid that losing streak stretching into a third decade. 

“In the past, I think we’ve maybe lost the physical side of the game,” he said. “We’ve gone down there [to Cardiff] and tried to play expansive rugby without earning the right. I think the Welsh teams in the past, when they’ve got the better of us, they’ve been more physical than us. 

“So, that’s the challenge we’ve got this weekend. We’ve got to be more physical than a pumped-up Wales team that are playing in front of their home crowd and who are desperate to make amends for a poor result in the first round. 

“And it’s a great challenge for us because if we have aspirations in this tournament, we’ve got to raise our game – game-on-game – and be better than we were at the weekend because when we reviewed that England game, yeah, we were delighted with the result but there were aspects of that performance that we think could be a hell of a lot better.  

“Having scope for improvement is obviously exciting but we need to do the work on the training pitch to get it out there, because we’ll have to be better this weekend if we want to win.” 

The similarities between this situation and 2018 are not lost on Gilchrist. On that occasion Scotland headed to Cardiff for the first Six Nations match of Townsend’s tenure with high hopes only to be totally outplayed in a 34-7 thumping, but he insists that the team has moved on since those days of being nice to watch and nice to play against. 

“The biggest thing we have learned is we can win in different ways,” the second-row explained. 

“In 2018, we had to be at our very best to win Test matches and it was all-out attack. Over the last season or two we have beaten some top teams without playing our best because of how we have defended, how we have managed the game and how much heart we have shown in the jersey. 

“As much as we strive for the perfect performance, this team has learned how to win without it being as pretty as it once was. That is the biggest thing between 2018 and now. We want to have that perfect 10-out-of-10 performance but we can be below that and still win Test matches because of the way we manage the game and how well we do the other sides of the game.” 

Gilchrist acknowledged that he and his fellow front-five forwards must take more responsibility for carrying the ball to Wales on Saturday after expending most of their energy on defensive duties against England.  

In the Calcutta Cup match, the starting front and second-rows for Scotland managed just 14 carries in total for a combined total of 58 metres between them, compared to 31 carries for 128 metres made by their opponents.   

 “We found ourselves having to absorb more pressure than we would have liked, with the way England pinned us back with their kicking, forcing us to exit more than we would have liked,” he said.  

“Ideally we’ll have more possession because we want to put Wales under more pressure than we were able to do against England when we were on the back foot a lot and having to defend for long periods. But in terms of belief and having that ability, if we can’t get our hands on the ball, we have got to be able to contain teams like we did England.”