Few changes expected by Andy Robinson for Samoa Test

SCOTLAND coach Andy Robinson is expected to again stand by the core of his winning side with very few changes to the XV that defeated South Africa for the final EMC Autumn Test match of the year against Samoa on Saturday.

The coaching team have been keen to look at a few players through the final internationals of 2010, before stepping up preparations for the World Cup, with just five Six Nations Championship matches and two August warm-ups before they arrive in New Zealand next September. However, they have managed to achieve that in some areas with injuries and substitutions allowing half-backs Ruaridh Jackson and Greig Laidlaw to be given debuts and locks Jim Hamilton, Richie Gray, Scott MacLeod and Nathan Hines all to have game-time.

MacLeod is out this week due to a rib injury, but there was better news yesterday on his Edinburgh team-mate, prop Allan Jacobsen, who was able to take some part in training on the state-of-the-art indoor 3G surface in the Aberdeen Sports Village and, if he continues to improve from the weekend's injury, Jacobsen could make today's team selection.

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Hamilton and Hines are vying to partner Gray in the second row, with Edinburgh's uncapped Fraser McKenzie also called up to the squad for training yesterday, but former Scotland skipper Alastair Kellock, who captained the Scotland 'A' team for the first hour on Friday night was left out.

Scotland's specialist lineout coach Stevie Scott spent a lot of time with the pack in Aberdeen yesterday tightening up the set-piece after some lineout losses against the Springboks, and said that the news that the team's victory had moved Scotland to a new high of sixth in the world rankings had provided extra motivation to finish the autumn series with another triumph. Everyone was delighted to do that," he said, "but the big thing is maintaining that and moving it on, and the best way to do that is to get a result on Saturday against Samoa which will keep us there for the next few months.

"This was always going to be a very important game for us to win so the preparation is the same as every other game. We give them massive respect. We know what they're like individually - they're great rugby players - and, if they get it right individually and as a team, then they'll be very tough opposition.

"You look at guys like (Seilala] Mapusua and (Alesani] Tuilagi, they're top performers in the Premiership, key players that we need to keep an eye on. There's no doubt they're tough opposition. They are not together as much as our players but they will only get better having had three weeks together and with six or seven weeks next year they will be a very tough proposition in the World Cup. But we've been together for a month now so we'll be looking to put a performance on top of what we've done as well."

He gave a strong hint that Gray, the 21-year-old Glasgow lock, would start his third Test match in a row, insisting that there were no qualms about him taking on the lineout leadership role for the first time from the start.

Scott said: "We have to back him. He's been playing very well and calling the lineouts for Glasgow, so it's not something that will suddenly hit him on Saturday. He's developing and getting better with every game and every session.

"The team hasn't been picked yet and are all in the mix for Saturday; they're all away doing analysis on Samoa now. But the development is great. Al Kellock did a power of work for the 'A' team last week and Tom Ryder came on and had a great impact as well, so from thinking we didn't have great cover in the second row you look now at Fraser McKenzie, Tom Ryder, Al Kellock, Scott MacLeod, Hamilton, Gray and Hines, and we have seven guys all capable of playing for the national team."

There are still nearly 4,000 tickets available for Saturday's Test match with 16,600 briefs sold by late yesterday.