You probably all know the Scotland team to face Japan by now, this one has been a bit late as I’ve been moving house. However I haven’t seen the full team yet so it’s almost like I wrote it without knowing the team. Almost.
With Duncan Taylor (who has looked good at 12 for Saracens), Pete Horne and Alex Dunbar out of the squad through injury there’s only one real choice here and that’s Matt Scott of Edinburgh. On the summer tour he finally stopped trying grubber kicks against people’s legs and actually concentrated on making an impact on the game, and suddenly he looked like the player you were hoping he might turn out to be. Defensively he is solid, he plays in a physical style but has enough time spent in the 10 shirt for Currie to be able to throw the ball about a bit.
You could argue about throwing Sean Lamont in at 12 as a bashup merchant and giving someone like Mark Bennett a run in the outside channel but that experiment was tried against Munster recently and was not a glorious success as Glasgow struggled to make gains: Lamont had no space and Bennett had no time.
It comes down to a choice of 3 really: Bennett, De Luca and probably Sean Lamont. Al’s done me a favour and left Lamont on the bench so I could perhaps hoover him up and continue the experiment of playing him at 13. There are pros and cons to this, the pros being that he seems to have re-ignited his passion for the game this season and – at least until he was asked to play 12 – he has been on fire for Glasgow, marshalling the defence and gaining hard yards through the middle. The con is of course – as with any converted winger- his distribution is not the greatest and often you wish for the silky hands of a Brian O’Driscoll to pop the ball up to the supporting runner, on the occasions anyone remembers to support the line break.
Next comes the tricky proposition that is Nick De Luca, who seems to have more international lives than a whole family of cats. He must be a selector’s nightmare: every time the fans write him off for doing something stupid in a navy shirt and he goes into hiding, he then refinds form just ahead of an international period to make him an irresistible choice once again. Edinburgh have hardly been great, but large parts of their slight upturn in fortune recently have been down to the returning pairing of De Luca and Scott. That offers a tried combination with some good form just when the other possibilities get injured.
I think looking forward to 2015 Scott/Bennett could be the long-term partnership in the midfield but Bennett is not quite ready now defensively, despite great attacking skills. The same could be said of Byron MacGuigan who also seems to find holes in defences on a whim, which is a shame because there won’t be that many more opportunities for the Scotland coaches to experiment in a non-meaningful environment and find us the exciting centre partnership we all crave. For now it may well have to be a less-rounded outside centre such as De Luca (prone to rashness) or Lamont (doesn’t pass much) until the younger guys can come through.
So here’s the team, we’ve gone for Laidlaw as captain but you could equally argue a case for the Big Stroker; he’ll lead by example anyway.
Scottish Rugby Blog XV to face Japan: 15. Tonks, 14. Maitland, 13. De Luca, 12. Scott, 11. Seymour, 10. Heathcote, 9. Laidlaw (C), 8. Beattie, 7. Fusaro, 6. Strokosch, 5. R Gray, 4. Swinson, 3. Cross, 2. MacArthur, 1. Grant
Bench: Dickinson, Ford, Welsh, Hamilton, Brown, Cusiter, Weir, Lamont