'Blair fan' Andy Robinson opts to go with Rory Lawson

ANDY Robinson kept faith with the vast bulk of the squad that won in Dublin last time out but still the Scottish coach had his hand forced in the front row and sprung one major surprise when he dropped one of his "favourite players".

• Scots players Jim Thompson, left, Rory Lawson and Allan Jacobsen watch the hubbub of central Buenos Aires go by. Picture: PA

Rory Lawson gets the nod ahead of Mike Blair for what looks like the first time in his adult life and in Blair's absence Glasgow skipper Al Kellock makes his debut as Scotland skipper with the surprise scrum-half named as vice-captain.

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Robinson's only enforced change came in the front row of the scrum where Moray Low fills the sizeable boots of Euan Murray with Scott MacLeod preferred on the bench to the youngster Richie Grey.

Despite winning a highly respectable 18 caps over the years Lawson has only made one start for Scotland, against France back in 2007 when Blair was injured and Chris Cusiter sat on the bench.

Scotland's regular skipper is making slow progress with his knee injury although Robinson warned that Cusiter would have to have made a full recovery by Monday or risk an early flight home.

Robinson said Gloucester's Lawson has earned his berth in the starting line up in Tucuman tomorrow, although he had words of consolation for Blair.

"I'm a Mike Blair fan," said the Scotland coach, who was unapologetic over his selection. "He's an outstanding player. But I have to view this on merit and I think we have three very good scrum-halves. I believe it's right for this match to pick Rory because of his performances.

"It's always tough to tell players when they're not involved but Mike took it very well. He's a quality person and he'll still have an influence on the game at the weekend."

"Rory came off the bench against Australia very well. He came off the bench well against England. At Gloucester he has been a really consistent performer at the end of a season where they have been getting 30-point victories. He has earned his spot."

Interestingly enough Lawson's father Alan proved a little less patient than his son. Lawson snr got so fed up with doing bench duty behind Dougie Morgan in the late 1970s that he made himself unavailable for Scotland for a stint, a test match time-out that Rory refers to as "a term of absence" while pointing out that in the old amateur days a substitute's only hope of getting on the field was with an injury.

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While he had to play second fiddle over the years to his nearest competitors, Lawson could have been forgiven for thinking he'd finally cracked the nut after his outstanding contribution against the Wallabies, a match he played the bulk of after Cusiter was injured early in the action. Still, it didn't happen for him although he went on to perform heroics against England where he charged down an attempted drop-goal from Toby Flood that would have snatched an ill-deserved win for Martin Johnson's side at the death.

"These things are obviously frustrating," said Lawson with a wry smile on his face. "Everyone wants to start every game whether it is club or country. That is the position we are in, we are very fortunate with the quality we have at scrum half. Mike and Chris have had the lions' share of that over a number of years now so I am delighted to get my opportunity.

"I value every cap as an honour and privilege but there is something a bit different about starting. It can almost be easier starting the game because you know exactly how to prepare for it, you can prepare in the warm-up for starting the game whereas being on the bench you are wondering if you will get on."

The other notable figure in the reserves is Jim Thompson, a cousin of Lawson's. When Lawson was asked if it felt special to be chosen alongside his near relation his answer was emphatic. "Of course it does. How many sets of brothers have played before, but how many cousins? It is a huge occasion for myself, Jim and all the family."

The truth is that Thompson spent several of the latter years of his childhood in the Lawson family household after the untimely death of his own mother and the two cousins are almost as close as most brothers. Sadly the family didn't make the long trip to Argentina,

Elsewhere the coach admitted that Simon Danielli had been playing "pretty well" for Ulster of late and that he was asking question of the two starting wingers, Max Evans and Sean Lamont. The coach also admitted he's faced a tricky selection in the backrow where it was "always difficult to leave out Alasdair Strokosch" but given that Kelly Brown and John Barclay are the most consistent players in the side he wasn't about to sacrifice either man to make way for the Gloucester forward.

And Robinson had an altogether easier decision when it came to Strokosch's Kingsholm companion. Alasdair Dickinson has been suffering a stomach bug for the best part of a week now and given the volatile state of the poor man's insides he will count it a blessing that Geoff Cross is preferred on the bench.