Just when I thought I had figured out the Axis of Anticipated that is Robinson and Townsend they go and mix things up! Here is the Scotland team to face the Italians at Murrayfield on Saturday, 5pm:
15 Rory Lamont (Toulon) 24 caps
14 Max Evans (Castres) 19 caps
13 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh) 25 caps
12 Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors) 29 caps
11 Simon Danielli (Ulster) 27 caps
10 Dan Parks (Cardiff Blues) 61 caps
9 Mike Blair (Edinburgh) VICE-CAPTAIN 71 caps
1 Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks) 20 caps
2 Scott Lawson (Gloucester) 27 caps
3 Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors) 14 caps
4 Nathan Hines (Clermont Ferrand) 72 caps
5 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN 33 caps
6 Kelly Brown (Saracens) 45 caps
8 Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks) 11 caps
7 John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors) 28 caps
16 Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors) 35 caps
17 Euan Murray (Newcastle Falcons) 38 caps
18 Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps
19 Ross Rennie (Edinburgh) 7 caps
20 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) 52 caps
21 Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) 7 caps
22 Nikki Walker (Ospreys) 23 caps
Of course to me, even with 14 changes, this isn’t really mixing things up. The game plan is one I would hope works regardless of personnel, and if they choose to play the way I want them to play against Argentina they are best placed to do this with Parks at 10 and a Lamont and Evans in the team at full-back and wing.
This selection is one that shows that Hamilton is unlikely to start at second row, as with Hall at hooker. It also shows that Blair is on the plane and others have a lot of work to do.
Poor Harley and Ryan Grant were always only there to supplement training and now head back to the Warriors at least in World Cup nick.
Chris Cusiter and Euan Murray also have a mammoth task proving themselves but I have a nagging, and frankly frustrating, notion that Robinson is going to take both of them. That would mean 5 props and an unlikely trip for Dickinson, unless he plays a blinder on Saturday, and Cusiter going with only probably a half of international rugby under his belt, recently. This would mean that Scotland’s best scrum half (last season) misses out, if Greig Laidlaw’s fleeting Murrayfield appearance is anything to go by.
This is one instance where I pray I am wrong, because I strongly feel that the Edinburgh Captain should go, even if it means Cusiter misses out or even Rory Lawson, who was poor against Ireland.
So do they know their squad now for RWC 2011? The cynic in me reckons they have known the squad for a week or so, now, and haven’t intimated as such to partly motivate the numbers and not to alienate those that could step in if there are injuries. The exception here being Harley and Grant.
So if we say that Thomson and Southwell pulled out and weren’t replaced, Harley and Grant were not even a passing consideration for Robinson and Denton and Cuthbert were kept up to speed for the future and so they are familiar enough, should they be needed in the following 6N, then that takes the squad to 34.
Which other 4 will miss out?
I feel emboldened enough to make a call on this. A prediction, if you will. If I am right there could be some disappointments: some for fans as well.
At the moment it looks unlikely that they will take Dickinson. If De Luca goes, which seems certain now, then the 3 centres and Evans will push out a wing or full-back. Normally it is between Danielli and Walker to see who gets the single spot and Robinson tends to favour Danielli, but my theory is that both will go, by virtue of Cuthbert’s cut.
If we select 5 props and 2 hookers I feel Hall must miss out. He has nowhere near the level of rugby Ford and Lawson have played recently. We may even have an extra Hooker and 8 front rows, if we are negative. As a by product of 7 or 8 front rows, though, there will be one less back and if there are 2 Lamonts and a Paterson, 3 centres and an Evans, we cannot have 6 half-backs. The tragedy here is that Laidlaw looks set to miss out.
I suspect Rennie will go and Strokosch won’t. Don’t ask me why. Gut feeling. Who is the 30th man, then? Hall is only in because I think we’ll be cautious. Really the 30th man is the one area I have no inkling in. A surprise would be nice, wouldn’t it?!
So here is my predicted RWC 2011 Scotland squad based on the EMC squads I have seen. I hope in some aspects I am wrong, but by naming the above team for Italy Robinson and Townsend have, in many respects, nailed their colours to the mast.
Joe Ansbro (London Irish), Mike Blair (Edinburgh), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Max Evans (Castres), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lamont (Toulon), Sean Lamont (Scarlets), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), Dan Parks (Cardiff Blues), Chris Paterson (Edinburgh), Nikki Walker (Ospreys).
John Barclay, John Beattie (both Glasgow Warriors), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Richie Gray, Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), Nathan Hines (Clermont Ferrand), Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Newcastle Falcons), Ross Rennie (Edinburgh), Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks).