Alun Wyn Jones has predicted “a great spectacle” when Wales and Scotland launch the NatWest 6 Nations in Cardiff on Saturday.
Scotland have not won in the Welsh capital for 16 years, yet they will arrive following an autumn campaign that saw them demolish Australia and run world champions New Zealand close.
They are match favourites in some quarters, yet Wales – despite a crippling injury crisis – are also determined to make an immediate statement ahead of demanding away games against England and Ireland.
Saturday’s clash additionally marks the 10th anniversary of Warren Gatland’s first game as Wales head coach as he reaches 98 Tests at the helm.
Asked about Scotland’s tag as favourites, Wales skipper Jones said: “On the back of last year (Scotland beat Wales at Murrayfield), I think that would be fair. But I think sometimes it’s better to be the hunter rather than the hunted.
“If we are the underdogs, then we will take that tag, but it’s about the 80 minutes.
“We are a passionate country who love our rugby. We try to put that out there in the way that we play, as Scotland have done in the past few years, particularly with the brand of rugby they are playing.
“It’s going to be a great spectacle, and people are probably expecting a try-fest.
“We are very conscious of the brand of rugby they are playing at the minute, and their evolution over the last 18 months. They have a bag of tricks that I am sure they may dip into at some point of the game as well.”
Gatland fielded 13 Ospreys players for his first Wales Test in charge against England at Twickenham, and there will be 10 from an in-form Scarlets side this weekend.
Injuries to several senior players – the list of absentees includes Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb – might have forced Gatland’s selection hand but the Scarlets factor cannot be overlooked.
They won last season’s Guinness PRO12 title and have reached the European Champions Cup quarter-finals later this term, with Gatland fielding an all-Scarlets midfield, half-back combination and entire front-row.
Scarlets captain and Wales hooker Ken Owens said: “There are a lot of Scarlets players in the side, and some of that is down to the continuity and combination of playing together. But the international arena is different again.
“You have to do the simple things well – win the gain-line to get the offload game going, have good set-piece ball, quick ball in the contact area.
“If you get that right, it allows you to play an expansive game. If we can get those basics right, then hopefully we can transfer the confidence of the regional game to the international stage.
“Scotland have been outstanding over the last year or so and had a great autumn series. They will come down extremely confident of being able to play an expansive brand of rugby.
“They will come down as favourites on the form they’ve had from the autumn. But we are into championship rugby now.
“There is a lot of pressure on results and there is a trophy on the end of it, so it will be interesting to see how they deal with that pressure as well.”