Mike Blair promoted from reserve scrum-half to Scotland captain

SCOTLAND head coach Andy Robinson has turned to Mike Blair to lead the national team against New Zealand on Saturday and attempt to build momentum going into a tough autumn international series after a fine finish to last season.

• Blair is to lead from the front

Edinburgh scrum-half Blair has not previously started under Robinson, who took over as head coach in the summer of 2009, but with Glasgow No 9 and Robinson's first skipper Chris Cusiter ruled out until next year with a knee injury, Robinson has decided it is time to promote Blair.

After naming a team with five changes to the one that sealed a Test series victory in Argentina in June, Robinson said: "I looked at his leadership skills. Mike is very clear about the way we want to play, and he communicates that well with the players. I know he is going to take the game to New Zealand with the quick taps and the way that he'll run. And also, like a lot of players, he has the full respect of the team."

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Rory Lawson had been tipped by many observers to be picked at scrum-half, but Blair has been selected on current form. Robinson said: "Mike's been in outstanding form for Edinburgh, particularly in the Northampton game in the Heineken Cup."

• Belief in ourselves is key to success, says Andy Robinson

The head coach has made the unusual call of leaving out Scotland's first male centurion, Chris Paterson, when the Edinburgh full-back is fit. Instead, Robinson has stuck by Hugo Southwell at full-back and restored Rory Lamont to the wing position vacated by the injured Simon Danielli. Sean Lamont is on the other flank in what is a big and physical back-three unit. With Dan Parks at stand-off offering a reliable kicking option, the coach has left Paterson out of the matchday 22 altogether. Glasgow forwards Richie Gray and Richie Vernon have been handed their first international starts.