Andy Robinson has delayed naming his team to face South Africa due to a growing injury list, but that won’t stop me so here is who I think should play the World Champs this weekend. Everybody chant it with me, “YES WE CAN”.
15. Southwell – with Hugo the only player of the back three to register against the All Blacks in however minor a way, it would be a shame to drop him to get Mossy in. His left boot is useful, too.
14. Paterson – he’s added a few yards to his kicking and has been in better form this season than he was playing for Scotland last time. Takes pressure off 10 too.
13. Evans – if he recovers, which could be doubtful. As for who replaces him, it’s tough to know which of Grove, Ansbro or Cairns should be given a shot. Sean Lamont maybe? Morrison’s lack of distribution possibly means Lamont would not be an option in the centre, but it would free you up to get some more zip on the wing – Thompson maybe?
12. Morrison – he will need to rediscover his form of last season quickly or there could be an entire centre reshuffle on the go.
11. Sean Lamont – to be honest you could stick in Rory Lamont or Nikki Walker and it probably wouldn’t make much difference unless the midfield gets sorted out. When the Lamonts go looking for work they can make a real impact on the game, but against the ABs they never got a chance.
10. Jackson – that one offload late in the game showed that he is not cowed by the All Blacks. Parks missed the penalty to touch that opened the floodgates. We might be able to get away with hiding him on the wing against Samoa or the Argies, but the All Blacks looked for him and sent Sonny Bill through and round him. Time to throw Jackson in, methinks.
9. Laidlaw, or Lawson if fit. That the fourth choice is not far off the first choice in terms of quality is a relief. Lawson would add that bit of experience but like so many things it comes down to fitness.
8. Brown – showed up everywhere last weekend, unfortunately in defence mostly.
7. Barclay, 6. Rennie – I say play em both, SA style. Rennie has been turning over ball Pocock style for Edinburgh and should be allowed to increase his cap quota. I wouldn’t say this should be at the expense of Barclay, who I did see missing one tackle but still has the sort of attitude and determination that should see a step up in his play this week and serve as a beacon to the rest of the team.
5. Gray – Needs to keep his place, took a while to get up to speed but made plenty effort with the ball and showed up in defence a lot. Lineout was ok too. Has a dead leg he should recover from.
4. Hines – Why he wasn’t on from the start last week is a mystery. The scrum survived weight-wise with him in, which presumably was the reason for Jim Hamilton’s inclusion. His added aggression and Lions experience against the Boks should help too.
3. Murray – had a good time in the second half scrum-wise and I swear I saw him carrying the ball too.
2. Ford – Lineout was ok, he probably needs to up the work-rate even further to make a true impact.
1. Chunk – was a little subdued by the All Blacks but still had a few of his trademark fly-half breaks.
Bench: Cross, Hall, Macleod/Mackenzie, Vernon, Laidlaw/Lawson, Weir, Ansbro/Thompson
Lawson and Dickinson just ain’t working at this level yet as professional benchwarmers – the bench should all be potential starters not just “okay, who’s left?”. We need a bench that is going to strengthen our hand, not weaken it. I think any of the above would freshen things up a bit.
The All Blacks have been remarkable candid about their approach to attacking us: get round an unathletic midfield and keep the big forward pack moving looking for mismatches out wide. I’m not saying we should never play them again, but we shouldn’t really. And certainly whoever decided that to play them first up was a good idea should stop pandering to the Adidas-haka driven balance sheet and go and work for the Government. Our national team’s development is more important than a few extra quid.
Feel free to post your own teams in the comments!