GLASGOW rookie Pat MacArthur has been called up to the Scotland squad after his clubmate Dougie Hall was ruled out of Saturday’s Six Nations match with Italy through injury.
Hall had taken over as the starting hooker from Ross Ford in the opening match against England, but was forced off early in the second half with what Dr James Robson this week described as “a mild knee strain”. It has not recovered fully and so head coach Scott Johnson yesterday turned to MacArthur, who was named alongside Hall in the original team as a stand-by.
At 25, MacArthur is something of a late developer, but the uncapped hooker has been on the radar for some time, quietly working his way up the ladder from Ayr to Glasgow Warriors and Scotland age-grade levels to the full arena. With Ford having held on to the Scotland No 2 jersey virtually for the past six years, and MacArthur’s call-up leaving Glasgow bare, it might seem that there is not a lot of competition for the hooking spot in Scottish rugby.
In fact, MacArthur has had to push his way through capped men Hall, Scott Lawson and Fergus Thomson, as well as Edinburgh duo Andrew Kelly and Steve Lawrie in recent years with club and country, while youngsters Finlay Gillies and Fraser Brown add pressure from below and even Toulon veteran Phil Fitzgerald jumped in with fresh competition a couple of years back.
Lawson and Hall are both currently injured and Thomson retired after a lengthy battle with injury, so doors have opened, but MacArthur has pushed himself to the head of the queue with improving consistency in the Glasgow jersey over the past year. He is slick and accurate with his lineout throwing, packs a punch as a ball-carrier and has good handling and stepping skills worthy of a back.
Clearly, he is delighted at the prospect of breaking through the barrier to the Test arena and taking his development to the next level at Murrayfield tomorrow.
“It’s a huge honour to have the chance to play for my country,” said the Ayrshireman. “It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I started playing mini rugby at Ayr, and aimed for since I became a professional with Glasgow Warriors.”
Scotland flanker Alasdair Strokosch is another out of action this weekend, but he returned to his Perpignan home this week for what he expects to be a four-week recovery. That rules him out of the next two home games and leaves the third, against Wales in four weeks’ time, an outside bet. But, depending on club action, he could be available for the final championship match, against France.
Dr Robson said: “Alasdair was seen by a specialist at the Spire Murrayfield Hospital this week and the injury was diagnosed as a fracture of the orbital floor (the area around the eye). Alasdair is returning to his club in France and will be in their care. If he has no complications he should be available to return to action in four weeks’ time.”
Ticket sales for tomorrow are close to the 50,000 mark and are on sale at £30, £40 and £70 for adults and £15, £20 and £35 for students/under-18s at www.scottishrugby.org.