WHEN Andy Robinson announced the team for the Welsh game it was a move in the right direction, but a move which I felt didn’t go quite far enough, and two of the players I thought should have started at Cardiff, Stuart Hogg and Mike Blair, turned out to be two of the stars of the game when they came off the bench.
It was good to see Hogg, the former Hawick YM and Hawick player, get almost 70 minutes of game time (under unfortunate circumstances of course) and Blair being brought on with more than half an hour to go rather than the usual 20 minutes. The two certainly made a difference and took their chances well and I will be amazed if they don’t start the game against the French a week on Sunday at Murrayfield.
Hogg had a cracking debut and should have scored his first try for Scotland. In fact, as we all know, he DID score a try for Scotland and why the referee didn’t go to the video referee I have no idea. Two minutes later he almost went over again. He was held up short but Greig Laidlaw was on hand and he worked a little magic to sneak over the line with one bullet-like movement.
I was impressed with all five Borders players and at one period they were all on the pitch at the same time making up a third of the Scottish team.
I was also impressed with Ross Rennie and David Denton who are cementing their places on the Scotland team sheet. Can you imagine what the back row will be like when another Borderer, Kelly Brown, gets back to fitness again?
So that’s the roses handed out – what about the flip side? After half time, Scotland again had one of their all-too-familiar collapses. It happened two years ago at this very venue in dramatic circumstances, and painfully it happened again.
It started when Chris Cusiter failed to deal with the ball and from the resulting line out the Welsh backs got the breakthrough. The 6ft 6in winger Alex Cuthbert ran through Laidlaw to get the first touchdown of the match, which was converted.
That was bad enough but when Nick De Luca and Rory Lamont were sin-binned for professional fouls there was little we could do to stop a rampaging red backline taking advantage of the extra space.
This was our biggest loss for a while yet we played well for most of the match and I felt less disappointed than after the English game.
So what about France? The team I predicted last week had Hogg and Blair starting and I fully expect Robinson to go with them this time.
I would drop Sean Lamont and Nick De Luca as they still find it difficult to make their mark wearing a Scotland jersey. De Luca’s foul was madness.
Hopefully Evans will recover from his ankle injury and move to centre with Rory Lamont going to the wing to make way for Hogg at 15. There is talk about Morrison coming back but I really would prefer blooding Matt Scott or even Duncan Weir and partnering one or the other with Max Evans who could move back to his favoured inside centre position.
Euan Murray will again miss the match as it’s on Sunday so expect the pack to remain the same except for the injured Alasdair Strokosch. Once again they have proved that they are a world class unit. The team will be announced next Wednesday and I am confident that this time we will go into the game with a real chance of winning.
My Scotland team to meet France would be: Stuart Hogg; Lee Jones, Matt Scott, Max Evans, Rory Lamont; Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair; Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, John Barclay, Ross Rennie, David Denton. Subs: Scott Lawson, Ed Kalmen, Rob Harley, Richie Vernon, Chris Cusiter, Duncan Weir, Sean Lamont.