Mike Blair has gone, Chris Cusiter is injured. Will we see Laidlaw and Pyrgos duelling for Scotland’s 9 shirt? Who is going to put their pass at the right height nicely in front of the poor mug picked at standoff?
Having been moved back to scrum-half for Edinburgh this season almost as soon as Andy Robinson hit the outside of Murrayfield’s revolving door, Laidlaw hasn’t had quite the season he had last time out when he sparkled even as opposition runners tried to grind him into the dirt. Still he’s sharp, service is okay and his kicking from the tee is invaluable in the absence of, well, Dan Parks. He finds more gaps at 9 too when opposition defenders have less time to line him up, and he runs a nice support line.
Definitely the coming man and one of the few to emerge from the Autumn Internationals in credit. Going backwards he is already getting used to the art of the scottish scrum-half-as-last-line-of-defence play that made Mike Blair invaluable, and with a try against South Africa he has nous in attack too. As usual there is a careful balance to be selected between 9 and 10 and the requirements of a team for a decent goal-kicker. If you don’t trust Jackson to kick then you need Laidlaw. If you go with Weir or Heathcote at 10 then suddenly Pyrgos comes right back in to the reckoning. Now may not be the time but Laidlaw is not that much younger than the Cusiters and Lawsons of this world and Pyrgos will have plenty of chances as the long term future at 9.
After a fashion, Mike Blair’s replacement against Tonga, Lawson – who was ever thus really – has been plying his trade at a Newcastle team that are not setting the world on fire, but not struggling as much as say Richie Gray’s Sale side. Having made the shirt his own for a short while in recent years when he was the form man at Gloucester, Lawson could still offer a level head depending on Scott Johnson’s game plan. But is he really one for the future?
Perhaps the surprise pick of the enlarged training squad, Kennedy hasn’t had much pro-game time and could well be in the squad for the experience. But if you have been reading Moody Blue’s reports you’ll know that he’s definitely one to watch. Would he be in the squad if Cusiter was fit? Probably not. But give him a couple of games with the A team and see how he goes. Would he be worth a reversal of his move along the M8 if a new Edinburgh coach has a clearout?
Also considered: Chris Cusiter (injured), Mark McMillan
Our pick: We complete the team with Greig Laidlaw. Still probably Scotland’s best choice of rugby brain, and a consistent goal kicker over shorter distances. Pyrgos should be the man on the bench.
The Final Team: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Rob Harley, Al Strokosch, Roddy Grant, Johnnie Beattie
A discussion on the merits of our team (which was selected by the individuals who wrote the articles) will follow soon, with reference to Monday’s squad announcement.