The good news from a Borders perspective is that all five local players have retained their place in the starting XV for Scotland against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, (kick-off 5pm).
This is particularly good news for prop Geoff Cross who has kept Euan Murray out of the side, even though Murray is usually the first choice in that position for Saturday games. It’s a vote of confidence from coach Andy Robinson for the former Gala player.
The only change in the team is Rory Lamont out and Nick De Luca in. Lamont broke his leg against France, so his brother Sean moves to the wing with De Luca back in the team to partner Graeme Morrison at centre. Max Evans has recovered from his ankle injury, but will come off the bench at some point rather than start.
The big problem for me is still in the centre, but when injuries strike you can only select from who is available and Robinson also feels that Matt Scott is not ready yet to be thrown in at the deep end. Duncan Weir has been replaced on the bench by Ruaridh Jackson.
It’s been highlighted (and rightly so) that our defence has been poor in patches in recent games, and both Lee Jones and Greig Laidlaw have been guilty in this department, allowing tries to be scored at vital times. This is an area which must be improved.
It’s good that we are beginning to score tries again, but we have to make sure we don’t throw away 10-point leads which cancel the good work out.
Ireland, of course, gave away an 11-point lead to the French on Sunday and their draw in Paris was scant consolation to them.
They will find it difficult to turn round to play Scotland after just six days’ rest and this will certainly give us an advantage. If we had had just six days after the French game we would be missing a lot of key players who would not have recovered in time.
It is going to be an interesting match-up and so important that we build on our performance against France and move up another level. If we do, we just might be cheering a long-awaited victory.
Team: Stuart Hogg; Sean Lamont, Nick De Luca, Graeme Morrison, Lee Jones; Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair; Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Ross Rennie, John Barclay, David Denton. Subs: Scott Lawson, Euan Murray, Alastair Kellock, Richie Vernon, Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson, Max Evans.
Elsewhere, Borders duo Russell Anderson and Gavin Robertson have been reselected in Peter Wright’s Scotland Under-20 squad who will take on their Irish counterparts in a Six Nations match tomorrow night at Dubarry Park, Athlone. Anderson, originally from Langholm, and Robertson, who moved from Melrose to play for Dundee HSFP, both retained their places on the bench following their recent outing against France at Netherdale.
For fixtures involving local teams this weekend, see the sporting week ahead panel below.