Here is my team for the Autumn, based on Robbo’s new squad. Please feel free to argue below!
15. Hugo Southwell. To begin the exercise with a rash of indecision is hardly great, but I am actually not sure who I would pick here. I would say Hugo is the incumbent until proven otherwise, but I haven’t seen enough of his or Rory Lamont’s games to be sure. Mossy has looked in good form so far for Edinburgh but the presence of him and his boot as usual depends on the selection at 10.
14. Sean Lamont – has been playing well and regularly for the Scarlets, which seems to have revitalised a quality player previously stagnating behind Chris Ashton and Paul Diggin at Saints. Until Timbo Visser qualifies for Scotland (and let’s hope he does), he’s still our strongest finisher apart from Chunk.
13. Alex Grove – has had his moments (great back pass the other week against Cardiff) but not really enough of them for Edinburgh’s liking, though he has kept any potential rivals out of that team for long enough now that he is probably the clear second choice centre. Could really be any one of Grove, Cairns, Ansbro or Evans and could well go on form right up to the match. I would be tempted to put in Grove or Cairns for defence and stick Evans on the other wing, so that’s what I have done. So Grove edges it, despite a lack of outstanding form. Gulp. That probably makes me a hypocrite.
12. Graeme Morrison – hasn’t sparkled yet that much this season, but then he never really sparkles, preferring to be quietly effective. His history of strong defensive work outside Parks will probably keep him in.
11. Max Evans – his pace and flair is key to Scotland’s attack, but I still think it could be best used out in the wider channels. Why Lineen is turning him into a centre and Dewey to a wing is slightly beyond me, but hey. Tackling massive Kiwi centres is hardly Max’s forte though he always puts in the effort. Rory Lamont is also a distinct possibility here (as is Mossy) if Robbo goes for a Morrison/Evans pairing, which is more likely than my craziness above. Robbo said Nikki Walker would start for Scotland if he started for the Ospreys in the Heineken. He hasn’t.
10. Dan Parks – love him or hate him, we are on a 4 game unbeaten streak, and the 3 victories are all down in no small part to Dan Parks. Picking him at fly-half gives you more flexibility in picking your back division too. I am usually of the “young enough, good enough” school of thought and would like to see Ruaridh Jackson get some bench time at least during November but Robinson is not seriously going to throw him in against the All Blacks. Mossy and Hugo are the potential cover and so are likely candidates for the bench depending on the pick at 15.
9. Rory Lawson – sharper service than Mike Blair, and while he may not offer quite the same attacking threat he is in the great tradition of nuggety Scottish scrum-halves. With more time on the ball, Parks will have more control. Getting the ball away from Richie McCaw, Schalk Burger et al at ruck time is key for Scotland, who need every extra second in attack.
8. Kelly Brown – in the absence of Johnnie Beattie, this is Scotland’s (other) problem position right now. Brown will have to slot in here, although he is well used to it – he started as an 8 remember and was only shunted to 6 and 7 to accommodate our wealth of talent at Number 8 – how times have changed. Vernon is class in open play but still makes the odd youthful error. Taylor and Hogg should be returned to warmth of the Robinsonian bosom, if you ask me…
7. John Barclay (captain) – second name on the team sheet. Still in form even when his pro-team aren’t particularly, he has added great support running and handling to his ferocious defence. Ross Rennie is still possibly a bit fragile but may challenge him soon, tending to be a better ball-snaffler. Roddy Grant is another possibility, but is he ready to face Richie McCaw? One of Scotland’s few world class players, Barclay is more than capable even on an off day and my choice for Captain too.
6. Al Strokosch – with Beattie causing a reshuffle round the back row and no sign of Big Jason White, again there is only one real possibility as the Big Stroker can be highly effective if he steps up to top form.
5. Richie Gray – in good form right now, and he has handled the extra lineout responsibility at Glasgow admirably. One of the players who should be thrown in at the deep end right now. Even if he sinks, he’s tall enough to walk along the bottom.
4. Nathan Hines – currently playing top class rugby with Leinster, he also adds fire, leadership and recklessness to the pack. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
3. Moray Low – tricky knowing whether to go for form or experience. I’d pick Moray Low on current form, but Andy will more likely throw Murray in against the Kiwis for his greater reputation/experience. If Murray gets a game this weekend and starts destroying scrums, that could change and he becomes a cert. Unless it’s a Sunday.
2. Ross Ford – if he’s not picking Fergus Thomson in the squad, it’s debatable whether anyone else deserves a shot although perhaps Hall as backup for the ballast offered in the scrum. We all know if Ford steps up to, say, Chunk’s intensity level with consistency he would be truly worthy of the Lions test cap his talent has given him, but he does it only sporadically.
1. Allan Jacobsen – Chunk was the last name on this list, but the first name on the team sheet by a country mile. Could also be captain if he didn’t lead by example anyway.
So what do you think – the way forward, or rank idiocy? Let me know in the comments!