Scotland Set To Start Their Campaign

For some it is like Christmas day. You won’t see people running down the street screaming “It’s here! It’s here!” but there could well be more people taking an early breakfast tomorrow than you would normally expect.

The World Cup starts. At 9.30am we will watch the famed New Zealand All Blacks take their bow against Tonga as war dances, hyperbole and a soundtrack of Lawrence Dallaglio, Francois Pienaar and Sean Fitzpatrick are forced on us by the good people of ITV. Rugby is a strange old game, and tomorrow heralds the showcase celebration of our collective weirdness.

For the Scots, though, we will be holding back for 16 ½ hours. We won’t want to burn out too quickly. No. Many will be timing their alarm (or their walk home with a kebab) just right so as to catch our kick-off against Romania at 2am.

The build-up is almost over.

We can seriously evaluate if our preparations have been spot on, and whether or not our surprising amount of confidence is merited.

Here’s the team. Have a look:

15 Chris Paterson (Edinburgh)

14 Max Evans (Castres)
13 Joe Ansbro (London Irish)
12 Sean Lamont (Scarlets)
11 Simon Danielli (Ulster)

10 Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors)
9 Mike Blair (Edinburgh) VICE-CAPTAIN

1 Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh)
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh)
3 Geoff Cross (Edinburgh)
4 Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors)
5 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN
6 Kelly Brown (Saracens)
7 John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors)
8 Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks)

Substitutes

16 Scott Lawson (Gloucester)
17 Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks)
18 Nathan Hines (Clermont Ferrand)
19 Ross Rennie (Edinburgh) 8 caps
20 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors)
21 Dan Parks (Cardiff Blues)
22 Rory Lamont (Toulon)

What do you reckon? For me a few things stand out. Morrison misses out through injury, but will be coming back in for Georgia, so as to be match ready for Argentina. Danielli, therefore, starts on the wing as Sean Lamont comes in to 12 as a runner.

With this tactic expect Lamont to be used as a battering ram in the early exchanges before Ansbro is handed the ball later, to try and create spaces for our finishers. In truth this will work against Romania, but hopefully Lamont is reinstated to the wing when Morrison is fit so as to have more defensive control come Argentina and England.

For the pack it will be a case of going out and learning to dominate.

This looks set to be the 8 for most of the tournament and they seem to have been given a run at it from the start to become a single, coherent unit that plays into form. On the one hand this could mean that if certain players like Ford and Barclay do not reach their peak they could be retained, regardless, but with our run of games it is unlikely they will not progress. I just hope they all stay fit.

Marshalling them is Mike Blair. His back-up is Chris Cusiter. These selections do not seem shrewd to me.

With former captain and leader against Ireland, Rory Lawson, kept out for the Georgia game we risk having Cusiter playing a bit part against Romania and maybe no part against Georgia. The problem here is that Cusiter, who has not strung 2 international matches together for a very long time, needs the practice. Would we have 3 different 9s in 3 different games? Is Lawson now outright 3rd choice and the safety net if and when the other 2 cannot play in the big games. It is a hell of a decision.

Our pack is settled, but we are now mixing and matching in the first 2 games because we do not know our best backline yet. It does also depend on our style of play because if we are aiming for try-fests against the smaller teams and attrition against the bigger teams then expect a combo of Blair/Cusiter and Jackson to make way for Lawson and Parks by the time Argentina meet us on the 25 of September in Wellington.

If we are going for a try-fest I would also be wary. Many of the team are playing their first ever World Cup game and amongst the newbies Jackson, Vernon, Gray, Cross and Rennie have never scored for Scotland. Nor has the sometimes hot-headed Jacobsen. Let’s hope we keep our shape and our composure when pressing for a try bonus.

Anyway… it is time to set guesswork and worrying aside.

 We kick off in the middle of the night, at the start of a campaign and at the end of our preparations. I’m all confused and I’m not sure who or what to put my money on.  I’m sure we will overcome Romania comfortably, and I think we will finish second in the group. I think. Maybe Robinson will throw in some curve balls and I won’t know what I think.

At least trusty old Chris Paterson is a constant…

One comment on “Scotland Set To Start Their Campaign

  1. Rory on

    Class picture of Robbo in the Southland Times wearing his tartan trous at the reception. Hype here is massive though Stuart Barnes is here too! Tongans loving it here.

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