Newly-qualified Tim Visser straight in as one of two changes for Scotland
AS expected today, on the exact day that he qualified for his adopted country, Tim Visser was named in the Scotland team to play Fiji on Saturday.
But, if the team announcement was designed with that in mind, no-one was letting on.
Visser is one of two injury enforced changes made by coach Andy Robinson to the team that recorded the northern hemisphere’s only victory last week, beating Australia 9-6 in monsoon conditions in Newcastle. By defeating southern hemisphere opposition, Scotland succeeded where England, Ireland, Wales and Italy all failed.
Max Evans, who missed the win over the Wallabies due to club commitments with Castres, has been selected on the opposite wing to the big Dutchman. The two wingers in Newcastle, Sean Lamont and Joe Ansbro, were both listed as unavailable for the starting XV although Robinson has delayed announcing his substitutes, firstly to give Lamont time to recover from his rib injury and secondly, according to the coach, to keep everyone keen.
Ansbro has been a spectator at training all week, the gash above his eye – sustained in a clash of heads with Alasdair Strokosch during the wild post-match celebrations in Newcastle – looking like it might burst if anyone gives it so much as a dirty look.
When asked whether either winger would have retained his place had they avoided injury, Robinson dismissed the question as hypothetical.
Elsewhere, the coach has stuck with a successful formula. The forwards performed heroics against Australia, in the scrum if not in the lineout, and they will be expected to do the same again against a Fijian team whose big men have always had strength to spare but have sometimes lacked the preparation and technique to make best use of it.
The back row is also retained en masse. Robinson resisted the temptation to promote Richie Vernon, the only specialist No 8 in the squad, into the middle of the third row in place of John Barclay, who is more accustomed to the No 7 shirt. The trio will be expected to keep close tabs on Fiji skipper and Edinburgh favourite Netani Talei, whose footwork close to the line earned him several Heineken Cup tries including a stunner at Racing Metro where he seemed to beat three defenders twice over.
It wouldn’t be a tour unless something went wrong and the team’s training on Tuesday was disrupted by an outbreak of Delhi belly (or Fiji fever) which affected five players. John Barclay and Ryan Grant didn’t even make it to the training ground and Max Evans’ session on Tuesday morning was cut short when he was forced to return to the team hotel before he’d even had a chance to warm up.
“I’ve said to the whole squad that every single player who is not in the starting XV has to be on alert to start on Saturday and prepare that way,” said Robinson, before adding, “but I am expecting everyone to be fit.”
The medical team too are hopeful that the stomach bug will have quit the camp long before the 2pm (3am Saturday BST) kick-off arrives.
v Fiji at Churchill Park, Lautoka, Saturday, kick-off 3am BST (live on ESPN, replayed at 2pm)
15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow)
14 Max Evans (Castres)
13 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)
12 Matt Scott (Edinburgh)
11 Tim Visser (Edinburgh)
10 Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh)
9 Mike Blair (Edinburgh)
1 Ryan Grant (Glasgow)
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh) (c)
3 Euan Murray (Newcastle)
4 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow)
5 Richie Gray (Sale)
6 Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan)
7 Ross Rennie (Edinburgh)
8 John Barclay (Glasgow)
To be confirmed.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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