Italy were dispatched with a mixture of ease and lacklustre shape and Scotland have completed their pre-tournament run outs and home based marketing obligations. The flurry of speculation is over and the media pestering will probably cease for a few weeks.
Scotland have named their World Cup squad.
As expected Robinson and has opted for the familiar comfort of British and Irish Lions Euan Murray and Chris Cusiter, despite neither being full participants in all training or playing huge amounts of rugby, and this has gifted someone like Al Dickinson a place in the squad to cover Murray’s Sunday absences.
The biggest omissions in the squad have to be those of Laidlaw and Beattie.
Vernon has been picked over Beattie by way of being fit, playing regularly and having the most time to play in front of Robinson. Beattie will be upset with this but the truth is he would never have been the same Beattie we saw dismantle Ireland in 2010 at Croke Park and he now has a chance to get his confidence and form back in the Rabo League.
Robinson also went out of his way in the build-up to praise Strokosch and this seemed to be the writing on the wall for Beattie. After Saturday’s game the inclusion of Strokosch will also have Vernon redoubling his efforts in training because our best player (in my opinion), Kelly Brown, has no problems shifting to 8, when needed.
I feel sick for Laidlaw.
Easily the 9 with the best form coming into camp he saw Lawson play poorly against Ireland but got less than 10 minutes himself. His ability to kick goals could well be better than Jackson’s but we never got a chance to see if it held up in Test matches. He played 10 for Edinburgh but we will probably never get to see if he could for Scotland.
Even more staggering is the faith being shown to Blair and Cusiter. Now back to full fitness we have two scrum halves that have question marks over their ability to take part in a long campaign. Lawson will be in possession of the jersey now, unless Robinson and Townsend thought a charge-down try was enough to give Blair the starting shirt.
Laidlaw is said to be less than happy with the answers he got when he asked Robinson where he stands and rumours about the Head Coach actually telling some that Cusiter is so gifted he could well be his 3rd or 4th choice 10 would not help his mood. Giving him Edinburgh captaincy is a nice wee relaxer for him. It was an almost apologetic gesture when it was announced.
Of course I cannot remember the last time Scotland did not call up replacements during a World Cup to cover for injuries. That is how the likes of Dickinson got into the mix and it is not improbable that injuries will happen again. Especially when we look at Murray’s ankle, Cusiter and Blair’s ailments and the list of physical specimens we will be colliding with.
Someone at the SRU will be getting the full-time job of keeping those discarded sweet and in a good mood. We never know when they might be recalled.
Then we come to the captaincy. The predictable announcement of Kellock’s title.
People criticise Kellock. ‘Pen-knife’ I’ve heard him be called (it explains itself). I’ve also heard that he is the least gifted player in the Scotland squad or that he is the first one to be punched when there is a flair-up in training.
You can respect someone without liking them and Kellock is a necessity in the Scotland pack. He isn’t the classiest of footballers or a potent offensive option, but he hits rucks, niggles opposition players (without garnering a Hines-level of cards) and runs a lineout very well. He is also, from what I’ve heard, one of the few voices in a pack that is not fond of talking. He says the right things at the right time and may not lead by example but could very well be the needed voice of reason.
With this squad Kellock can mould the pack. He has a yard maker in the second row with him in Richie Gray. He has the machine of Kelly Brown behind him and a talented Barclay who will need a stern talking to. He has a mercurial Rennie who could be bigged-up and a front row in need of simple instructions.
Lawson, Blair or Cusiter can direct the backs and Paterson will always say the right thing to sober them after a success or a failure.
Truthfully I think the squad is 95% correct. Laidlaw should be in but I genuinely think he’ll be on a plane to New Zealand sooner rather than later. I don’t think Murray is there for anything other than reputation but Geoff Cross will start against Argentina and I don’t mind an unfit or unhinged Murray versus an unfit Sheridan. If a back row goes down Beattie will get called up before a Denton or a Harley so I’m not panicking about that.
The rest is the best we can manage, with the exception of the injured Nikki Walker.
“I want to pay tribute to the dedicated and professional approach of all those in our provisional squad,” Robinson said.
“Eight players have been unfortunate to miss out from that squad but that is because of the talent we have been able to assemble in our final 30.
“As a squad we have our values and uppermost among them is to inspire the nation by the way in which we conduct ourselves and through winning performances on the international rugby field.”
My interpretation is that winning with this squad means playing the way that got us results in the past. Expect Parks to start.
Scotland squad for the IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand:
Joe Ansbro (London Irish) 7 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Mike Blair (Edinburgh) 72 caps, 6 tries, 30 points – RWC 2003 and 2007
Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) 53 caps, 3 tries, 15 points – RWC 2007
Simon Danielli (Ulster) 30 caps, 6 tries, 30 points – RWC 2003
Nick De Luca (Edinburgh) 26 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Max Evans (Castres) 20 caps, 3 tries, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) 8 caps, 1 penalty, 2 conversions, 1 drop-goal, 10 points – RWC newcomer
Rory Lamont (Toulon) 25 caps, 6 tries, 30 points – RWC 2007
Sean Lamont (Scarlets) 56 caps, 8 tries, 40 points – RWC 2007
Rory Lawson (Gloucester) 28 caps – RWC 2007
Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors) 30 caps, 3 tries, 15 points – RWC newcomer
Dan Parks (Cardiff Blues) 62 caps, 4 tries, 15 conversions, 48 penalties, 14 drop-goals, 236 points – RWC 2007
Chris Paterson (Edinburgh) 105 caps, 22 tries, 163 penalties, 89 conversions, 3 drop-goals, 786 points – RWC 1999, 2003 and 2007
John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors) 29 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2007
Kelly Brown (Saracens) 46 caps, 4 tries, 20 points – RWC 2007
Geoff Cross (Edinburgh) 6 caps – RWC newcomer
Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks) 21 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC 2007
Ross Ford (Edinburgh) 49 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2007
Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 12 caps – RWC newcomer
Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors) 36 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC 2003
Jim Hamilton (Gloucester) 32 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC 2007
Nathan Hines (Clermont Ferrand) 73 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2003 and 2007
Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh) 56 caps – RWC 2003 and 2007
Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN 34 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Scott Lawson (Gloucester) 28 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2007
Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors) 15 caps – RWC newcomer
Euan Murray (Newcastle Falcons) 39 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2007
Ross Rennie (Edinburgh) 8 caps – RWC newcomer
Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester) 20 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks) 12 caps – RWC newcomer
Head coach – Andy Robinson OBE
Attack coach – Gregor Townsend MBE
Defence coach – Graham Steadman
Specialist coaches – Duncan Hodge (kicking) and Massimo Cuttitta (scrummage)
Analyst – Gavin Scott
Strength and conditioning – Neill Potts (lead) and George Petrakos
Nutritionist – Richard Chessor
Director of Performance Rugby – Graham Lowe (Who’s manning the fort at home?!!!!)
Medical – James Robson (Doctor); Paul McGinley and Stephen Mutch (physiotherapists); and Gillian Main (masseuse)
Psychologist – Richard Cox
Media – Graham Law (Scotland team media manager) and Dominic McKay (Director of Communications and Public Affairs)
Team Manager – Dougie Potter
National Team Co-ordinator – Kirsty Mackay
Kit manager – John Pennycuick
Lawyer – Bruce Caldow