Hadleigh Parkes column: Aiming to make history, off-field issues and a kicking ban

Hadleigh Parkes column
Six Nations: Scotland v Wales
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh Date: Saturday, 9 March Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, S4C, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

In the sixth of his Six Nations columns, Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes looks forward to their game against Scotland, which could set up a Grand Slam encounter against Ireland, discusses off-field issues and explains why he is banned from kicking.

It's the build-up to a Test match and I'm really excited about that - it's a big Test match too.

We're going to Scotland and we're on a really good run at the moment, but there hasn't been much mention about our record run of wins because within this group we want to make our own history.

We're a proud group who want to go out there and put a good performance on the pitch.

Obviously there's been a bit going on off the field that has been in the back of the mind because a large number of this squad is involved in that.

Also the Ospreys and Scarlets players in the Wales squad are good friends with their mates back at the regions as well.

You have to remember that it doesn't just affect the players either - there's backroom staff, physios, strength and conditioning coaches, chefs, cleaners and the upstairs people who are working on the commercial side of the businesses too.

And that's before you look at the supporters - there's a lot of history that goes on between the Jacks and Turks!

So it has been an interesting week, but we're all professional enough to know that we've got a big job this weekend and we have to go out there and perform. If we go out there and do our jobs properly, then there's no reason why we can't have a good day on Saturday.

Ken and Alun Wyn epitomise everything Welsh

I've got nothing but the utmost respect for guys such as Ken Owens and Alun Wyn Jones, who've been taking the lead publicly and behind the scenes this week.

They're genuinely good blokes. Ken's the kind of guy who's got time for everyone, from the cleaner to chairman and CEO; down at the Scarlets he talks to everyone.

You'll go to a pub and he'll talk to the locals; you know, really chew the fat over a pint. He's Mr Scarlets isn't he? He's been around that area all his life.

Both he and Alun Wyn are one-club men too. They epitomise everything Welsh and I can't say a bad word about them and it shows their characters that they are at the forefront from a players' perspective.

'This is us'

Hadleigh Parkes takes on Edinburgh in September, 2017
Hadleigh Parkes has played at Murrayfield, but against Edinburgh, not Scotland

Tuesday's training was a bit wet and windy and that's what it looks like it'll be in Edinburgh on Saturday.

There was a good intensity to training on Thursday and at the end of the day we're professionals.

It's the same for us as it would be for a banker, or a gardener, or someone in the police force. You're paid to do a job and you go out there and do it as well as you possibly can, regardless of everything else in life.

It just happens that our job is in the public eye a bit more than some other jobs and people have opinions on that. And everyone is entitled to have an opinion.

We wanted this week to be about us as a Wales squad and that's why we announced our team earlier this week. This is us. This is what we want to do. We want to go and do a job, so come Saturday let's make sure we're ready for what a good Scotland team are going to throw at us.

Players tend to know Monday or Tuesday that we're playing; by Tuesday night, the whole regional thing seemed to have been sorted. So we've put it all to bed, and the boys are really excited to be playing in front a really big, strong contingent of Welsh fans.

I was up in the valleys on Sunday night, in the Rhondda, at a charity event and they said there'll be a busload of 46 of them going up to Edinburgh this weekend.

All of them were really excited about it and it sounded like they had planned a "men's trip" from the way they were talking.

It's the closer trip this year than Rome or Paris and someone was telling me earlier today that back when it was the Five Nations it was the "big" trip to go on. There's a bit of an affinity between the Welsh and Scots - they seem to get on quite well - and Edinburgh is a also really cool city to go to.

It sounds like a really good bus trip to go on, if you've got the right crowd with you! Hopefully for the Welsh fans making the effort to get there, we can put on a performance for them.

Focus on Scotland - nothing else

Every time I've played at Murrayfield so far, it's been for the Scarlets against Edinburgh and it's quite eerie playing there when the crowd is small.

It holds 67,000 or so, and when I've played there it's been in front of 3,000 or 4,000 and it's quite a weird feeling.

It's got loads of character and I've watched Test matches on the TV - you see the lone piper on the roof playing the anthem and you can feel the history, so it'll be amazing to be a part of it.

Anyone can win on their day in sport; 95% of sports matches could go either way, you don't know who's going to win.

Finn Russell
Finn Russell is a threat for Scotland

There are exceptions. Look at the Manchester City FA Cup match at Newport County the other week.

Newport had a great cup run and I'm stoked for their supporters to see the wins over Leicester and Middlesbrough. But, you kind of had a feeling that Manchester City should win that one. Ultimately their class should pull through.

Most of the time, though, it's not like that.

In the Six Nations, there are five teams where anyone could win any match-up. Italy are coming through strongly and played well so far.

Most of the games come down to a bounce of the ball, a decision either way. We're focused fully on Scotland and we want to put in a performance and come away with the win to set up what could be quite an intense week - but Scotland is the focus. Nothing else.

Kicking ban for me

In the team room they've been playing a clip of my mis-kick against England. I'd called for the cross-field kick to Chicken [Gareth Anscombe] and I'd caught it in touch, but we had an advantage.

The boys were calling for a quick tap back over by the posts. I don't know why I tried to spiral it but it came off the outside of my boot and it ended up in our own half of the field!

It was shocking, really terrible. It found grass, though! I was getting heckles from the crowd behind me so I just laughed it off.

It was horrible but they've shown it on the big screen in the team room and it's caused a fair bit of amusement.

We play a touch game and you're allowed to kick, but now I'm not allowed to kick any more and I'm taking the short balls.

Russell's return

Finn Russell being back for Scotland is important.

It's really good to see him back out there. There's a lot written about head injuries at the moment, so that's the most important thing.

What he did for Glasgow, winning the Pro12, what he's done for Scotland for a number of years - he's a fantastic player.

He's got a bit of X-factor about him. He's quick and you don't know what he's going to do - he's got the chip kick, he's got the long pass, he can step, he's got the short pass game.

He's doing really well for Racing 92 and he looks like he's enjoying the game too. He's a factor that we have to account for when we look at the Scotland team as a whole.

Scotland feed off him a lot and he is a good player - when he's played well then Scotland, Racing or Glasgow have played well.

We're the hunted now

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I think I said in my column the other day that I texted my parents to say that I'm starting against England and mum texted back "That's the biggest game you've ever played in" - and she's right, it was.

This one is bigger.

Now people are looking at us and probably want to knock us over a little bit. We're the hunted now.

It's going to be an amazing, exciting experience. If it goes well then it'll be an exciting week, but let's not lose sight of what has to happen first. We have to do a job on Saturday.

It's the build-up to a Test match and I'm really excited about that - it's a big Test match too.

Hadleigh Parkes was speaking to BBC Sport Wales' Dafydd Pritchard.

For the latest Welsh rugby news follow @BBCScrumV on Twitter.

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