Andy Robinson makes three changes to Scotland team for Samoa game
FOR the second time in a row, Scotland coach Andy Robinson has changed a winning formula in an attempt to turn what has been a successful summer tour into a little bit of history.
After the recent Six Nations, Scotland are more used to being on the wrong end of a whitewash but a win over Samoa on Saturday would give them an admirable record of three wins out of three.
John Barclay is already back home and planning his wedding speech so Sale’s Richie Vernon comes into the middle of the back row as his replacement. Sean Lamont’s physical presence is preferred to Max Evans’ fancy footwork on the right wing and Glasgow’s new recruit will form a powerful partnership with left winger Tim Visser.
And, at scrum-half, the sturdier figure of Chris Cusiter gets the nod ahead of his old friend and rival Mike Blair, who was a little unlucky to find himself up against the utterly inspirational Fijian No 9 Nikola Matawalu last weekend. Scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i runs much of the Samoan game and Cusiter will be asked to match him physically around the breakdown.
So could Saturday mark the end of Blair’s long and illustrious international career? At the age of 31 he has agreed a move to Brive, who will play their rugby in the Pro D2, France’s second division, next season.
Robinson has always maintained that he will not pick players from England’s Championship so it is not immediately apparent why he should think any differently about France’s second tier.
But Robinson remembers things differently and said: “I’d be surprised if I’d painted myself into that corner.”
Centre Alex Grove joined Edinburgh on loan when Worcester Warriors were relegated to England’s second division but Robinson added: “If Newcastle were in the second division I’d pick [prop] Euan Murray – I’m not sure I have said that.”
Robinson will reveal the names of those on the substitutes’ bench closer to the weekend but there must be a question mark over at least two of the names in the starting XV.
Murray and Al Strokosch did almost no training yesterday (Tuesday), just a little light jogging, but both men will be given every chance to prove their fitness.
Given both players’ importance to this team they may well get until approximately 2.59 pm on Saturday afternoon.
Strokosch won the player’s player award in the 9-6 win over Australia in Newcastle and then handed it to Murray after the Fiji match. The pair are enjoying a fantastic tour and, as two of the more physical specimens in the squad, Robinson would be loath to lose either man. That said, neither player would have had a snowball’s chance of starting had the game been on Wednesday instead of Saturday afternoon.
Geoff Cross is the obvious replacement for Murray and, if flanker Strokosch is sidelined by his troublesome calf injury, taped in the German colours of yellow, black and red yesterday in tribute to his ancestry, it would presumably mean a start for Rob Harley, whose patience has been tested to breaking point.
v Samoa at Apia Park
Saturday, kick-off 3:30am BST
15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow)
14 Sean Lamont (Glasgow)
13 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)
12 Matt Scott (Edinburgh)
11 Tim Visser (Edinburgh)
10 Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh)
9 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow)
1 Ryan Grant (Glasgow)
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh, capt)
3 Euan Murray (Newcastle)
4 Richie Gray (Sale)
5 Al Kellock (Glasgow)
6 Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester)
7 Ross Rennie (Edinburgh)
8 Richie Vernon (Sale)
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Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
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