As the Scotland squad assembles today in St Andrews for Six Nations training camp, the vicious final weekend of the Heineken Cup pool stages has thrown up a few injury worries for Andy Robinson.
David Denton caused momentary worry with a post-warmup withdrawal from the Edinburgh team, as did Al Kellock when he was taken off at half-time during Glasgow’s defeat to Bath. Denton has since tweeted it was “just a tweak” and he should be back in action soon, while Kellock’s problem was a bout of flu that caused the medics to keep him off the pitch. Both should be fit in time for the Six Nations.
Sale’s Fraser McKenzie was taken off with a suspected dislocated shoulder during the Sharks loss to Brive on Thursday. McKenzie had emerged as a clear challenger to Kellock and Jim Hamilton for the second row slot alongside Richie Gray. It looks like Hamilton is now the form man to bolster the scrum, although if he recovers from the man-flu, Kellock has performed well enough in recent weeks to be in with a shout especially given his leadership qualities. Tom Ryder has been called into the squad as the best of the rest (which is, um, him and Grant Gilchrist), but he might have to go some to do more than make up the numbers.
Most worrying was probably the news that Kelly Brown had been taken to hospital with a suspected fractured fibula suffered during Saracens’ uncomfortable win over Treviso. With the Scotland captaincy to be announced tomorrow and Brown one of the few names certain to be on the team sheet, if true it leaves a potential leadership vacuum in the Scotland pack as well as denying us one of our most consistent back row performers. It does add impetus to Rob Harley’s claim to the number 6 shirt – although the ever combative Al Strokosch may have something to say about that. Last night Brown tweeted that he was “Back home now and seeing the medics for further assessment tomorrow. Fingers crossed.”
Robinson has lost Moray Low from his original squad due to injury, and rumbling on we have an injury to Joe Ansbro’s back, and the leg injury that Ruaridh Jackson may recover from but will leave him short on match-practice. There is also the Steven Shingler saga that will roll one way or the other until the IRB committee appeal goes through. However with the call-up of Phil Godman that would make a squad of 37. Only 35 attended today, Brown being the noted abstentee. Presumably Shingler was the other. Phil Godman has been called up as cover for Jackson but that all points to a conservative solution in the fly-half berth, most likely the return of our old pal Dan Parks.
How to fix it all and keep the goodwill coursing through Scottish Rugby? My answer would be Greig Laidlaw – make him the captain.
10 problem, captaincy problem, flair problem: solved.
You’re welcome Mr Robinson.
Scotland Training Squad:
Backs: J Ansbro, M Blair, C Cusiter, S Danielli, N De Luca, M Evans, S Hogg, R Jackson, L Jones, G Laidlaw, R Lamont, S Lamont, R Lawson, G Morrison, D Parks, S Shingler* and D Weir.
Forwards: J Barclay, K Brown, G Cross, D Denton, A Dickinson, R Ford, R Gray, D Hall, J Hamilton, R Harley, A Jacobsen, A Kellock, S Lawson, E Murray, R Rennie, A Strokosch and R Vernon.
Out through Injury: M Low, F McKenzie
Cover: E Kalman, T Ryder, P Godman
*may be ineligible
UPDATE: We’ve had confirmation from the SRU that Steven Shingler did indeed meet up in Scotland camp today, but as per their protocols for players who played yesterday did not train.