Captain, My Captain

Tomorrow is a big day. In fact for some it is the first step towards their childhood dream. An extended 6 Nations training squad will be named and it is entirely likely that within the vanguard there will be a few fresh faces.

The 1872 Cup is over and Glasgow are victorious. Truthfully, few players stood out in the series to be the stand out candidate for their place, but with a training squad likely to be pushing 40 it is possible for a great many to have the chance to renew their press for a position in the Calcutta Cup match on the 4th of February. Robinson will be able to see more at closer range and there will be opportunity for interaction. Some players completely change when they experience new conditions and pressures. Some even change for the better.

The debate will rage on once the squad is announced. Every fan will have their favourites –this may sometimes depend on where their allegiances lie –but there will be some healthy competition for places. Some backs like James King, Duncan Weir and Stuart Hogg are begging to be included. Some, like Nick De Luca, have stumbled upon some fine form. Forwards like McInally, Denton, Harley and Fraser McKenzie look set to barge their way into Murrayfield on training day. Robinson has some options.

Robinson must also start considering long term options and he must consider some bolters. It is painstakingly obvious, but after Scotland’s worst ever World Cup showing and their continued woes near any international tryline Robinson has to take different options and make bold decisions.

This, therefore, leads to the more pressing question: whichever names come out in the wash, who on earth is going to be their captain?

You cannot declare that change is drastically needed and then list the same skipper. Scottish rugby is experiencing a slight upturn in fortune so it would be remiss to hang on to anything archaic. By this I mean the outmoded and frankly disastrous plan of naming Kellock as captain and then splitting his duties with Rory Lawson. Naming Blair and Cusiter as co-captains. Scotland needs a leader and Kellock was that, but Scotland also needs a leader the group can rally behind for every game and it must be said that Kellock is not guaranteed his place in every game.

On the surface this can be claimed because Kellock was in the stands in a Scotland issue suit when they played their vital World Cup match against Argentina. He is perhaps less likely to retain an international place now. He runs an efficient lineout and is a great talker, these attributes are well known, but he is not as skilled or as dynamic or even as threatening as other locks. Gray is as hard to throw near as him, McKenzie has a bit more grit, Hamilton is a much better scrummager and all of them are better ball carriers.

This is not a slight on Kellock. He is a good servant to Scotland and he should retain a squad place and his senior player status. A nation striving to improve and recover from a terrible campaign can ill afford to name a captain who is not guaranteed his place, though.

So who is guaranteed a spot? Well, the half-back roles are up for grabs and Lawson, Blair and Cusiter, whom have all had the responsibility of leadership, cannot be declared standouts. Robinson likes a 9 as captain but there lies no stability in that channel. He needs a lone figure.

Of course there are a few who will not be challenged for their place. Ford, despite what form he may be in come the fixtures, is guaranteed a starting spot. You’d need dynamite to dislodge him. Halfway through last season they said he was one game away from a level of exhaustion that would permanently damage him, but he has somehow bounced back this season. He is resilient, even if his throwing falters. His drawbacks? He is not enough of a talker or a tactician to lead Scotland.

His front-row cohort Allan Jacobsen is also a starter unrivalled. With Jacobsen, though, he works better when his goals are set out. He is a foot-soldier rather than commander and he thrives under the pressure applied by others. Lofty mantle would only stifle him. On the other side of this John Barclay works better when he puts pressure on himself and he has been touted as a future captain of Scotland. This is an option, but he is not in great form of late and is not assured of a start with Ross Rennie becoming many fans first choice 7.

It is no secret that I am a great admirer of Kelly Brown. He is a workhorse, he can think and I do not remember the last time he played badly wearing a thistle. Of course he is hampered by his stammer, but we are entering an age when the national team need to go out and perform rather than give grandstanding speeches and harry and talk themselves into holding opposition close. He always leads from the front and never shirks a responsibility. He is also a respected senior player already. He is a player Scotland can rally behind for every game.

Whomever Robinson chooses I hope that the training squad get their figurehead early and a new age of Scottish rugby can begin. If there is a willingness to change the coaching set-up and a willingness to give new players a chance then take the opportunity to send a statement and add new direction to that squad.

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

3 comments on “Captain, My Captain

  1. Hamish on

    Not convinced by Brown as a captain although he is probably one of the first names on the team sheet, likewise Ford and Chunk.

    You can make a case for all four contenders at 9, and for me Robinson has to nail his colours to the mast as to who is his first choice 9 and make the chosen one captain. The recent merry-go-round in both half back positions can do the side no good.

    The biggest disappointment of the World Cup was that there seemed to be no identifiable ‘first team’ – not yours or mine, but Robinson’s. It seemed that he didn’t know which his best team was, which led to chopping and changing that I think harmed the campaign.

    He has to make key decisions at the key positions of 2nd row, openside, 8, 9 and 10 and then stick with them for the 6 nations. Obviously nobody is undroppable if they’re not performing, but there has to be some clarity from the coach as to what his plan is going into the tournament, and he has to stick to his guns until forced to change.

    I’d go with Cusiter as my first choice 9 and captain with Laidlaw on the bench to cover 9 and 10. Blair has never got back to pre-Lions level, Lawson is a gutsy performer and great cover defender but opposition know he’s never going to make a break himself. Laidlaw is the coming man, but the experience of Cusiter pips it for me, especially with inexperience at 10 (assuming Parks’ days are done due to the form and potential of Weir and Jackson).

  2. A.D. on

    A lot of people think Cusiter should be Skipper. No one is really saying Kellock should retain the role, which is encouraging.
    I agree- selection should remain consistent.
    I fear Parks will be in the mix as the dreaded plan B, ready to boot any pace out of a game.

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