As Rory has chosen to focus on the backs he has left me with the slightly easier task of looking at the forwards.
The reason this is easier is because Andy Robinson has a pretty samey starting pack and, barring injury, I can’t imagine it will change too much for the first game in the World Cup. So this means the warm-up games against Ireland and Italy will help pick a bench, and the training sessions before hand are hugely important for individuals.
So who is a dead cert to go, and who “could do better”?
Props and Hookers
We know Chunk is the one constant in the front row, and Ford is immune to form so both will be nailed on for a tour. We also know that the stresses and strains of an entire campaign mean that there needs to be an abundance of specialists. There will be 3 hookers and at least 5, probably 6, props.
The issue is which lads are guaranteed a spot. Euan Murray has played a lot since joining Newcastle but was an early sub against a scrummaging pack, Leicester, on Saturday. Is he in good enough scrummaging form to guarantee a start? We already know when the scrum creaks Robbo looks to Geoff Cross. Is Alistair Dickinson fit enough to get in, and will there be a bolter?
The props will realistically be quite straightforward because we have limited resources and a lot of berths. Low can play 1 and 3 so will go, for example. The issue is hooker. Who backs up Ford? Hall and Lawson have both played ‘Get him on so we can win some lineouts!’ with Robinson, but who is preferred? Fergus Thomson has played for Scotland before and is a dynamic player whilst Andrew Kelly has captained Edinburgh during their mini run of wins.
On the plane: Jacobsen, Cross, Ford (all Edinburgh), Murray (Newcastle), Low (Glasgow)
Work to do: Dickinson, Lawson (both Gloucester), Hall (Glasgow)
Outside bet: Thomson, Welsh (both Glasgow), Kelly (Edinburgh)
It’s hard to see past the Holy Trinity of The Captain, The Kid and The Baked Beanz Man. Kellock, Gray and Hines will all be off to New Zealand, but there will have to be at least one other big fella in there.
Hamilton is playing regularly for Gloucester, McKenzie and Harley can play second row and back and Tom Ryder has a lot of game time at the Warriors if Robbo wanted a curve ball. MacLeod is off to Japan so is effectively opting out of the World Cup (but has he actually said ‘I’m not gonna go to the RWC if asked’?). Come to mention it neither has Scott Murray! There’s really only one spot left.
On the plane: Kellock, Gray (both Glasgow), Hines (Leinster)
Work to do: Hamilton (Gloucester), McKenzie (Edinburgh), Harley (Glasgow)
Outside bet: Ryder (Glasgow)
Barclay and Brown. Obv.!
Harley will be in the mix for this as well, but Rennie has been in and out for Edinburgh and has a mountain to climb if he is to prove himself for the trip down under. Strokosh also needs to win some love. Will we ever see Simon Taylor wear a Thistle again?
On the plane: Barclay (Glasgow), Brown (Saracens)
Work to do: Strokosh (Gloucester), Rennie (Edinburgh)
Outside bet: Grant (Edinburgh), Taylor (Bath)
It is fairly apparent Beattie and Vernon will be there. However we will need another guy (Brown can also cover) and maybe a more physical option would be chosen by Robinson. In terms of experience and a bit of leadership maybe Hogg could get an (unlikely) call up? Edinburgh fans are also screaming about how impressive David Denton has been, but I can’t see it happening. Let’s be honest, Scotland loves a flash number 8 playing with two grafters, so I’m starting a campaign for a more flamboyant 8. Either Vernon and Beattie get atrocious tattoo sleeves, or Gerard Butler gets a call up.
On the plane: Beattie, Vernon (Both Glasgow)
Outside bet: Hogg (Newcastle)