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Gilchrist granted his big break

Grant Gilchrist, the 22-year-old Edinburgh Rugby lock, will win his first cap for Scotland in Saturday’s final 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship match against France in Paris.

Gilchrist, the 6ft 8ins product of the Alloa and Stirling County clubs, replaces the injured Richie Gray who is expected to be out for around 8 weeks. He also leapfrogs not only Al Kellock to a starting slot but also possible candidates from Glasgow in Tom Ryder and Tim Swinson who are both having fine seasons.

The only other change to the starting line-up sees the experienced Alasdair Strokosch preferred to Rob Harley at blindside flanker. There is no sign of John Barclay, the only fit openside option, suggesting Johnson is happy to compete as is at the breakdown with France often without a “fetching” openside themselves.

Strokosch had started the championship in the number six jersey but injury in the opening match against England at Twickenham sidelined him from Scotland’s next three outings. He may be back in also to provide familiarity with the opposition. Although Harley has had his moments, at times he struggled to impose himself against Wales at the breakdown and the Big Stroker will be looking to remedy that.

Gilchrist, a winner of the 2011 Macphail Scholarship – which saw him play club rugby in New Zealand – was an unused replacement on the bench when Scotland lost to Tonga in Aberdeen in November.

Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson said: “We have made some progress in this championship and it would be ideal to cement that by a winning performance in Paris. But the needle is stuck in the same groove as far as my view on Saturday’s Test.

“We’ve got to get our basics right. We’ve got to win the contact area, be disciplined in our approach, and get some front-foot ball for our backs. We also want to end the championship on a high.

“I’ve been impressed with Gilco. I’ve spoken of form and future and he fits the bill in the latter category but he’s also keen as mustard and we want to look at him in the company of a very good French side.

“We looked at every position in detail after last weekend and we reckoned that Strokosch’s experience gave him the nod in the back-row.

“We’re not reading much at all into where France are in the table. France are wounded right now and we expect them to come out all guns blazing on Saturday.

“But the target for us is to concentrate on our game and aim to be as high up the table as possible come full-time in Paris.”

With the French centres likely to feature Bastareaud and Fofana, it was unlikely that Johnson would throw in Horne or Dunbar (or both) for this match with Scott and Lamont proving reliable in defence so far without having had a chance to set the heather on fire since the Italy game – where they both shone. His development brief should see them on the summer tour, possibly at the expense of Max Evans who has struggled for game time this tournament.

Scotland team to play France in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at Stade de France, Paris on Saturday 16 March (kick-off 8pm GMT):

15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) 14 caps, 3 tries, 15 points

14 Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps, 1 try, 5 points
13 Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors) 75 caps, 9 tries, 45 points
12 Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby) 11 caps, 1 try, 5 points
11 Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby) 9 caps, 5 tries, 25 points

10 Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps, 1 conversion, 2 points
9 Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby) vice-captain, 17 caps, 2 tries, 16 conversions and 36 penalties, 150 points

1 Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors) vice-captain, 9 caps
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) 67 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
3 Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors) 52 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
4 Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) uncapped (Scotland cap number 1039)
5 Jim Hamilton (Gloucester) 45 caps, 1 try, 5 points
6 Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan) 31 caps, 1 try, 5 points
7 Kelly Brown (Saracens) captain, 56 caps, 4 tries, 20 points
8 Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier) 20 caps, 3 tries, 15 points

Substitutes
16 Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors) 41 caps, 1 try, 5 points
17 Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors) 17 caps
18 Geoff Cross (Edinburgh Rugby) 20 caps, 1 try, 5 points
19 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) 51 caps, 1 try, 5 points
20 Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) 1 cap
21 Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps, 1 try, 5 points
22 Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) 19 caps, 2 conversions, 2 penalties, 2 drop-goals, 16 points
23 Max Evans (Castres) 34 caps, 3 tries, 15 points

Not considered due to injury: Alasdair Dickinson and Richie Gray (Sale Sharks), Chris Cusiter and Chris Fusaro (both Glasgow Warriors), David Denton and Ross Rennie (both Edinburgh Rugby) and Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby).

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales). Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland) and Lourens Van Der Merwe (South Africa). TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

11 Responses

  1. Good luck to Gilchrist, baptism of fire in Paris but good to see Johnston is willing to blood new guys shame he hasn’t brought MacArthur in at least for the bench really feel Ford needs resting for his own sake. Allen Ecosse!!

  2. “possibly at the expense of Max Evans who has struggled for game time this tournament.”

    What I can’t understand is why Evans is on the bench at all. There are better winger/centres around, aren’t there – why not any of Horne, Seymour and Dunbar for instance on the bench?

  3. Agree with previous comments, this is an opportunity missed to try some new players, there’s nothing at stake with this game. I would have played MacArthur and Dunbar, left Harley in and brought back Cross. Good to see Gilchrist getting a chance but can’t see the point of players like Kellock and Evans on the bench. Let’s get prepared for the next World Cup, we’ve got some good young players. We should give them a chance instead of waiting and waiting, other teams get them in, e.g. Wales and Australia.
    Despite the selection I hope we win.

  4. Would like to think that the summer tour will see new faces starting in key positions and some of the older hands used as mentors or left at home. Hopefully Johnston will be offered and accept the Head Coach job, didn’t think he and Ryan were the answer glad I got that wrong. Any chance we could buy out Ryan’s Sky contract?

  5. This is an outrage! Murray was heralded as the saviour of the scrum and was woeful last week, even if you take Joubert’s whistle happy performance into consideration.

    To have a player of girth’s ability on the bench is ludicrous! He cannot be expected to affect a 20 point swing if he only gets 5 minutes of game time. I am hoping for at least a half for the big man this weekend. Come on Johnson, Girth has proved that he can handle it with the big boys. It is time to practice what you preach and reward form and the ‘in form’ tight head has to be Girth!

    #Girth4lions

  6. Let’s be honest, in hindsight, opening weekend aside, it has been a pretty boring six nations although I really enjoyed the Italy game. With that being said, I just hope the weather is good for the three matches this weekend and we finally get some running rugby. My fantasy team is being torn apart! You would hope so with a game in Paris, a game in Rome and hopefully under the roof in Cardiff.

    There is no point in discussing the team selection and Johnson has been consistent and it would be harsh to drop any of the backs as they have had so little ball to play with. Horne, Dunbar and Bennett will all feature in South Africa.

    I am glad that Nigel Owens is refereeing on Saturday as I personally consider him to be one of the better ones. He is always very clear in his decisions and generally talks the players through exactly what he is looking for and is generally quite consistent. Hopefully he will therefore be anonymous on Saturday.

    Still looking forward to it and would be good to end with a few tries. Not actually to bothered with the result as the wooden spoon is not a concern so just looking for a high scoring game!

    What are people’s thoughts on Nigel Owens being over ruled last week for the Italian ‘knock on’ on the England line! That could have been a game changer and Italy deserved to win that game, if for nothing else, the smugness of the BBC commentary team! Even with 5 mins to go and Italy pressuring the England line for the win, all that was being discussed was the England point cushion going into the Wales grand slam game! That would have been unbelievable to see England stumble at HQ and lose to Italy… not that I am bias..

    1. Phoenix, I thought that Nigel’s attempted intervention with Clownshoes was interesting. It seemed to me that Nige had missed the ball ricocheting off Parisse, but continuing backwards, whereas at least Clownshoes did see that part altho he then got the call (knock-on) wrong in my view

  7. An interesting selection, difficult to find much to fault imo.

    John Barclay could have been brought in at 7, with Captain Kellybrows switching back to the blindside – I’m guessing that his not having reached his peak form recently, plus the injury, counted against him, plus I’m not convinced he’s a pure fetcher (in the Rennie, Fusaro, Warburton style) any more, it seems he’s morphed into more of a 6.5! Harley can feel slightly hard done by, but maybe Stroks is a pick with one eye on the weather, and the likelihood of a dog-fight on the pitch. However, for all the Tae-Kwon-Do black belt chat, I’ve never been entirely convinced by Big Al as an arm-wrestler.

    Gilchrist is surely a pick with one eye on the future, and I think it’ll be interesting to see what he can do – the future could easily be the 2Gs in the engine room, so it makes some sense to get him involved n a game whose outcome doesn’t really matter. Swinson and perhaps Ryder might have done a job for this match, but big Grant surely represents the next 10-odd years of Scottish locking?

    The same argument might have been used to introduce a new face in the backs, probably at 13, but it’s difficult to make a case that Sean Lamont has done much wrong – he’s not really had the ball often enough to not do anything with it, and his defence has been solid enough (34 out of 37 tackles successful). Still perhaps it might have been time to give Dunbar or Horne a run out.

    On the bench, arguably the sight of Max Evans riding pine again seems like a wasted opportunity

  8. Not much to argue with selection wise. I thought that Jackson might have been back at 10 given that Weir looked like the second coming of Dan Parks at times in the Wales game. Jackson’s kicking from hand and defence can be suspect but always looks the bigger danger going forward.

    No arguments with the Gilchrist selection, though perhaps he and Kellock might have started given his performance when he came on last week/form for Glasgow.

    Evans – as everyone else has mentioned makes no sense. I think Lamont keeps his place given the French centre pairing.

  9. A bit harsh on Weir there Mike. He may have similar attributes to what Parks did well (e.g. controlling territory), but he is also solid in the tackle and is developing an attacking threat. He is also only 21. It’s good to have the options, but I would say it’s sensible to have Weir starting, keeping us close with his game management and then bringing on Jackson once the game breaks up in the latter stages.

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