Sam Hidalgo-Clyne returns to Murrayfield while Blade Thomson makes his debut. Glasgow travel to Swansea to face the Ospreys. Everyone is a bit understrength.
If you’re a little depressed by the fact that discussion of the World Cup Final – which should really be the pinnacle of our game – has degenerated into tit for tat claims about foul play and the IRB stepping in to fine one group of men for holding hands while watching another group of men dancing, then I offer you the ultimate antidote to depression. Um, Scottish professional rugby.
This week has seen Geech face the possibility of a 3 man reshuffle to his Lions squad, with Tom Shanklin now joining Tomas O’ Leary on the injury list and Munster’s Alan Quinlan facing the possibility of a ban for gouging Leo Cullen in the Heineken Cup Semi Final. While there are a couple of Scots in the running to fill the spare 9 shirt in Cusiter and Blair, it is less likely there will be any chance of them filling the other shirts. If Quinlan is banned out of contention, Tom Croft and Ryan Jones (or Dennis Leamy) would be considered the front runners – perhaps Strokosch if he had been fit would have been in with a shout. In the backs, there is no real direct replacement for Shanks (if fit I suppose Tindall has the same amount of hair) but they might look to bring in the likes of D’Arcy or Hook as a different sort of centre. Max Evans is probably an outside bet at this stage I would say, but a demolition derby of the Ospreys at the weekend on his part would certainly help his cause… see below.
No news on when any announcements would be made, but it will probably be after this weekend’s Premiership semi-finals and round of Magners League matches.
Transfer update: Sean Lamont’s move to Llanelli has also been confirmed.
Edinburgh, still chasing an improvement on last season’s fourth place finish – they are currently on course to match that – are at home to the Dragons on Saturday. This match is not being televised. Assuming Edinburgh can beat the Dragons, on Sunday Glasgow could do them a favour by beating the Ospreys away, a result that would take the battle for the last few places down to the final weekend of the season. Ospreys vs Glasgow is on S4C at 2.30 on Sunday. These games offer the second to last opportunity for Scottish players to keep their heads bobbing above water in the Lions standby pool.
Probably the last chance for those of us without Setanta to see one of the Scottish pro-teams in action on the telly, tomorrow night on BBC Wales (Channel 991 on digital). Edinburgh will be hoping to finish strongly, but they have picked a side shorn of Southwell and Webster so they will look to the young guns in the backs to see them through to a decent finish in the table. Captain Mike Blair returns from a head knock (assuring him the job of Scotland captain in Argentina given Sales’s Jason White absence) and his little brother sits on the bench. Ospreys are without (player of the season?) Shane Williams and Scotland’s own Nikki Walker, but still boast some impressive talents who will be smarting from a failure to perform in the Heineken Cup and a fairly poor Magners League campaign.
Despite the end of term feel in celtic rugby at the moment with players everywhere departing for pastures new, knee operations or international tours, it should be a good game, as both sides like to keep the ball alive. I feel however that Ospreys will have the edge at the Liberty Stadium. Teams are as follows:
Ospreys: Lee Byrne; Aled Brew, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Johnny Vaughton; James Hook, Justin Marshall; Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett, Cai Griffiths, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Marty Holah, Ryan Jones (capt).
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Filo Tiatia, Rhys Webb, Shaun Connor, Jonathan Spratt.
Edinburgh: MacRae; Maxwell, Cairns, De Luca, Turnbull; Godman, Blair; Allori, Ford, G Cross, Mustchin, Gissing, Hogg, MacDonald, Callam.
Replacements: Lawrie, Traynor, Pringle, Newlands, Laidlaw, Blair, Dey.