Kelly Brown, the 30-year-old back-row forward, is to continue as Scotland captain for the opening game of the 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship – the Calcutta Cup clash against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The candidacy of Brown – who skippered Scotland during all three of the EMC Tests in November – has been endorsed by interim head coach Scott Johnson and his new management team.
Johnson said: “It was right and proper that the coaches considered captaincy at the same time as we were looking at selection of our squad for the England game.
“We believe Kelly has the qualities we’re looking for to captain Scotland. Captaincy is about deed in my book, not Churchillian oratory, and the knowledge and experience that Kelly brings to the Test match arena is good for this team. We are also looking at our leadership group and I’ll be naming two vice-captains in the team that we announce tomorrow.”
These are likely to be Laidlaw and possibly Al Kellock or Sean Lamont who are both senior figures in the squad.
The 52-times capped Brown has not played against England since the corresponding match at Twickenham two years ago.
“As I said back in November, it’s a huge honour to captain Scotland. The job now, though, is to work with all the other players in the squad to deliver a performance to make the country proud this weekend.
“It’s a while since I’ve played against England. I missed out through injury in last year’s Six Nations and I was sidelined during the Rugby World Cup match in Auckland as well, so I’m really raring to go,” Brown said. Also lining up in the squad are Sean Maitland and Tim Visser who have both played at Twickenham and scored twice, neither for Scotland.
Now to the controversial bit. Johnson has trimmed the squad that were in camp last week from 35 to 27, all of whom will remain attached to the national team with none featuring on Scotland A duty.
Those that have gone to Shade Munro’s group include both backup standoffs (unless you include Laidlaw) in Heathcote and Weir, and the only genuine openside in Chris Fusaro. Brown’s chances of wearing the 7 shirt just went up considerably with an abundance of 6s, 8s and 6/8s left in the squad.
Others dropping down are Vernon, Wilson, Dickinson, Kennedy, Dunbar, Tommy Seymour. Harsh possibly on Seymour who is probably the most in-form player not still in the top group. Still, you could be looking at an A team back row pool of Eddie, Vernon, Wilson, Fusaro, Grant at the least, and a back three including Seymour, Lee Jones and Tom Brown so the A team will be an arguably more difficult selection ahead of their match on Friday night. That side is announced on Wednesday.
Revised Scotland squad for the opening RBS 6 Nations Championship game against England on Saturday (2 February) at Twickenham, kick-off 4pm:
Backs – Max Evans (Castres), Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne, Ruaridh Jackson (all Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Peter Murchie, Henry Pyrgos (all Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott and Tim Visser (both Edinburgh Rugby)
Forwards – Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Geoff Cross, David Denton, Ross Ford, Grant Gilchrist (all Edinburgh), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Sale Sharks), Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), Robert Harley, Alastair Kellock, Moray Low, Pat MacArthur (all Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors) and Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan).
Looking at who’s left, I still think we are likely to see:
Hogg, Maitland, Lamont, Scott, Visser, Jackson, Laidlaw; Grant, Ford, Murray, Gray, Hamilton, Strokosch, Brown, Beattie.
With a likely bench of Cross, Hall, Kellock, Denton, Pyrgos, Evans, and Murchie
Though I’d love to see MacArthur get a run and possibly Horne, that they are still included (as well as Grant Gilchrist) at this stage rather than being shunted to the A squad is heartening.
The Scotland team is scheduled to be announced tomorrow.