STUART DOWN UNDER, by Stuart Cameron
IT’S BEEN a quiet week with Scotland not playing for 11 days after the two matches against Romania and Georgia in quick succession.
While we have nine points out of a possible 10, the fact that we didn’t get a try bonus against Georgia may come back to haunt us.
But simply put, if we beat Argentina on Sunday at 9.30am UK time, we are through to the quarter-finals – and we will have preserved our record of making it to the knockout stages in all seven World Cup events, which would be a good achievement.
But there’s a lot of rugby to be played and Argentina are more impressive than we first thought, having hammered Romania and running England close, so the nerves are beginning to jangle.
The one person we know who won’t be in the starting line-up is Euan Murray. His religious beliefs mean that he won’t play rugby on a Sunday. So who would I pick for my 15 to take on Argentina? Well this is not the team I think Andy will pick, but let me get this out of my system.
My team v Argentina: Rory Lamont; Max Evans, Joe Ansbro, Sean Lamont, Simon Danielli; Chris Paterson, Chris Cusiter; Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Alastair Kellock, Kelly Brown, Ross Rennie, Richie Vernon. Subs: Scott Lawson, Moray Low, Jim Hamilton, Nathan Hines, Mike Blair, Dan Parks, Graeme Morrison.
I ought to explain why I would choose this side.
First, I had to find a place for Danielli, who had an excellent game against Romania. He’s on form and that would mean pushing Sean Lamont into the centre at the expense of Graeme Morrison. Rory Lamont was excellent under the high ball against Georgia and broke through the gainline too, offering us a good option in attack.
Chris Paterson is playing some of his best rugby to date and, controversially, I would put him at number 10. I don’t think this will happen, but to include Danielli and Rory Lamont in the side you would need to shift Mossy to 10.
Parks started against Argentina four years ago in the World Cup when we lost, but I still rate him above Jackson because on his day he can put us into areas of the field where we need to be.
Ansbro, Sean Lamont and Max Evans have to start in the back line, with the only other choice being scrum half. Chris Cusiter is probably the toughest of our three options in terms of getting stuck in and refusing to be dominated.
In the front row, Jacobsen continues to impress. Cross is playing well and gets the nod over Low with Murray unavailable.
The second row is interesting. I think Jim Hamilton has put his hand up to start for Scotland, but Kellock is our leader and on balance just gets the verdict. He is such an influential man in the team – a great captain – and we need him on the park. Richie Gray is a shoo-in, of course, which takes us to the back row.
I am a Strokosch fan, but think Ross Rennie has done enough to earn his starting place. Kelly Brown had a man-of-the-match performance against Georgia at number 8, but I would put him at 6 with the improving Richie Vernon (who made the first of Danielli’s two tries against Romania) at the back of the scrum.
This leaves us with Nathan Hines and Jim Hamilton to come on and give us impact later in the game and I would go back to the 4-3 split in favour of the forwards rather than 5-2.
It’s going to be a tense night in Wellington, for sure, but I believe the Scots, who have failed to impress the locals over here so far, will step up for this one – they have to!