33 is the Magic Number

As Robbo prepares to stop being in the crowd at every single Heineken Cup game on Sky and actually name his 33-man squad on Wednesday, he must have a few headaches. Even the distraction of B & I Lions manager Andy Irvine claiming Robbo is in the running for Lions head coach will take some heat away from the fact that some key injuries, poor performances and the inescapable need to select Dan “I’m enjoying the Leek and Mutton pies a bit too much” Parks could make selection a stingy issue.

All of the questions will be answered tomorrow, in a no doubt pragmatic press conference devoid of fireworks and lofty autumn predictions, but Thursday’s papers will attempt to put a positive spin on things. Well they’re gonna have to wheel out a hell of a lot of former Miss Scotland’s and Scottish-legends-running-down-a-track-passing-a-sponsored-ball for their pictures to make things look braw!  Unfortunately for us here, most of that spin will be about players from outside Scotland, anyway.

If we’re honest Edinburgh and Glasgow have not been tearing it up like a crazed Ginger, and instead have opted for the gallant losers tag in the Magners League and Heineken Cup. Glasgow beat Dragons. Yup… that’s it. Edinburgh has lost twice in the HC, Glasgow were obliterated by Wasps, and both sides are close to humping the skirting-board in the Magners League.

So where are the positives? Well the dynamic Fergus Thompson looks full of running, and should finally be back in the set-up to challenge Ross Ford. Richie Vernon is deputising well at 8 for Glasgow, and is capable of explosive breaks. Chunk has had a good start to the season and can really lead the pack, now. Jim Thompson is fit again and could surprise a few people.  Richie Gray has fantastic experience and is greatly improved.

After this, though, we rely on reputation and the hope that foreign competition has readied the rest of a squad.

Hines is regularly playing for Leinster, and Jason White is playing in France, as is Rory Lamont. These selections would be more a prayer for form years in the past, though.

In regards to the English contingent; Alastair Dickinson will likely be Chunks back up, but rarely gets more than 50 mins for his club, Gloucester. Euan Murray has been on the bench for the majority of this season, but will probably start for Scotland. Scott Lawson has seen a fair bit of action, but still destroyed a game in last year’s 6N. Simon Taylor has been a force in the HC for Bath, and Ally Hogg has taken up a leadership role in Newcastle, but both aren’t Robbo’s favourite humans.

We won’t even broach our problems at 9, or the loss of Kellock…

So decisions, but most importantly risks, have to be enforced with this autumn squad. Only time will tell how things work out. Maybe the seasoned campaigners will burst back onto the scene. Maybe a new name will light up the turf. Maybe Dan Parks will pull his head out his arse and defy his Cardiff form. There are some certainties, too, though. Parks will start. Patterson will get at least one more cap. Fans will complain about ticket prices at Murrayfield. There will be more black jerseys than blue on 13th of November, and Scotland will flit from the sublime, to the disastrous, to the ridiculous.

We’ll talk about all of it, regardless.

Tags: