FORMER Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair has urged the Scottish selectors to stick with the team they picked this week irrespective of the result at Twickenham on Saturday.
Blair announced his retirement from Test rugby this month and is providing comment for the BBC through the RBS Six Nations Championship. He believes that Scotland have “genuine match-winners” right through the squad selected and believes interim head coach Scott Johnson has opted for an exciting line-up.
“On paper, this side looks exciting,” he said. “There seems to be a good balance and it will be able to play in a variety of ways: [Greig] Laidlaw probing the corners from nine with pressure coming from a well-organised defensive line-out, or Ruaridh Jackson attacking the line and playing tight through Sean Lamont and [Johnnie] Beattie.
“[Sean] Maitland, [Tim] Visser and [Stuart] Hogg are all dangerous broken-field runners and, with centre Matt Scott playing the role of ball player, they should get opportunities. There are genuine match-winners in the squad in the form of Greig Laidlaw, David Denton, Johnnie Beattie, Richie Gray, Stuart Hogg, Max Evans and Tim Visser. On paper, this side looks exciting: there seems to be a good balance and it’ll be able to play in a variety of ways.
“I’d like to see this team relatively unchanged and given an opportunity over the next three games to build and grow together.”
He speaks of needing at least ten players “playing to their full potential” and adds that “too often we have had most players having OK games”. But, as to what has to change to uncover winning performance, Blair pinpoints composure, discipline and confidence as key facets.
“Composure is key. When the opposition are under pressure, keep them under pressure and don’t let them off the hook easily. When we get into the ‘red zone’, come out with points three, five, seven – anything will do. Discipline has to be a priority. Two yellows against Wales last year and one against Italy proved to be key in defeat. These cards were awarded in positions where we were under no pressure and there was no need to offend.
“Confidence is the last aspect. We have a good squad with players who have been to a Heineken Cup semi-final, Pro12 play-offs and beaten Australia. Have the confidence in the players around you and play with that confidence.”