Andy Robinson today named his team to face Australia in Newcastle, and it was pretty close to the “More Likely” team we previewed last week, with Ansbro in for Evans (who is still in France) and Scott instead of Grove at 12.
So that means it’s perhaps not the most exciting team we could hope to see, or the youngest, or the rawest, or whatever your views are on the flaws in selection hereafter. But it probably will never be, for any of us. We just have to hope it is a team with a chance of winning against Australia.
For that to happen you’d hope there were a minimum of players out of position, but unfortunately as has been the case with Scotland selections of late that is not the case.
John Barclay will play at Number 8 ahead of Richie Vernon, as Robinson struggles to find someone to replace Denton. Barclay is one of his favourites, but Rennie more so, so he holds down the 7 shirt. Rob Harley has perhaps been overlooked but presumably with a back line light on caps Robinson is hoping for experienced forwards to fulfil the leadership roles.
Joe Ansbro will make a welcome return but also be out of position on the wing (although he has played there plenty for his club). Arguably he is keeping the shirt warm for Tim Visser but I hope that he will be given a shot at 13 at some point on this tour.
Ryan Grant is the sole new cap, and Matt Scott gets his first start at inside centre, having been capped off the bench briefly during the Six Nations. He’ll be looking to get the best out of Nick De Luca, who once again will cut a divisive figure in the 13 shirt, especially with Dunbar, Grove, Ansbro and Hogg all potential replacements. De Luca will have to show his Edinburgh temperament, not his Scotland one; time could be running out even for a man with as many international lives as Nick.
At halfback he has opted for the club combo of Blair and Laidlaw. Greig Laidlaw may not be everyone’s idea of a stand-off (especially if you are of the Warrior Nation persuasion) but he runs a game brilliantly well, gets his backline moving and is a fearless goal-kicker. Weir only has one cap, and it may be Robinson doesn’t fancy a 10-12 axis with 2 caps between them (neither as a starter) and not yet used to playing together. Instead he has picked a group of backs who have at times this season carved open some of the top teams in Europe, and he’s thrown Stuart Hogg – our most exciting attacking prospect in years – in there too.
Up front it is as you would expect with Grant edging out Welsh who can cover both scrum berths from the bench. In the second row Kellock and Gray pick themselves really, but Ryder will be hoping for an opportunity to press his case in the absence of Jim Hamilton and show perhaps he is a more mobile ball-carrying option than Kellock.
Vernon and Brown will offer pace from the bench, while Weir offers the potential for a controlling boot if the game is tight. He’d probably fancy a run at Quade Cooper too.
We’ll find out early next week if the blend is finally right; there are plenty more options in the squad if change is required.
Scotland Team to play Australia: Stuart Hogg, Joe Ansbro, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Sean Lamont, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Al Kellock, Richie Gray, Al Strokosch, Ross Rennie, John Barclay
Replacements: Scott Lawson, Jon Welsh, Tom Ryder, Richie Vernon, Chris Cusiter, Duncan Weir, Tom Brown
Australia: Luke Morahan; Joe Tomane, Anthony Fainga’a, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane; Berrick Barnes, Will Genia; James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Dan Palmer, Sitaleki Timani, Nathan Sharpe, Dave Dennis, David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham.
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, Ben Alexander, Rob Simmons, Michael Hooper, Nick Phipps, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley Cooper.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa) and Keith Brown (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand).
Hunter Stadium, Newcastle, NSW, Tuesday 5th June, kickoff 7.30pm local time. UK TV coverage on Sky Sports from 10am GMT.
In other news, negotiations are apparently ongoing to get the Fiji and Samoa tests broadcast somehow possibly via the BBC. Any announcements will come from the SRU website. Oh, and don’t forget to vote in our Player of the Season Awards!