THE Scotland camp was rocked further last night when skipper Kelly Brown became the third player to be ruled out of the remainder of the South Africa tour as the fall-out from the Samoa defeat continues.
The captain has ankle ligament damage, suffered in a tackle during Saturday’s 27-17 defeat to Samoa in Durban.
With hooker Pat MacArthur sent home with a knee injury and his replacement on Saturday, Stevie Lawrie, nursing a tight back which kept him out of training, Scotland sent for Glasgow’s recently-signed hooker Fraser Brown. He followed
Jon Welsh in flying from Glasgow to Nelspruit ahead of the tour’s second match against South Africa this weekend, while MacArthur and prop Geoff Cross headed in the opposite direction.
Kelly Brown said: “I’m very disappointed to be heading home but I wish the boys all the best and I’m sure they will do well in the final two games of the tour.”
Scotland team manager Gavin Scott, himself a former Scotland A hooker, admitted he ad had to step in to help at training with Scott Lawson the only fully fit hooker, but there was no prospect of him pulling the boots back on.
“That’s not going to happen, but we are having to delve into our strength in depth,” he acknowledged.
“Kelly has a significant ankle injury. He has been scanned and will go for further investigations when he returns to the UK with Saracens. But it is enough to keep him out of these two games and then the ongoing stuff will be with his club. I don’t know if he will miss the start of next season. That will be determined when he gets back to his club.
“Following Pat’s [MacArthur’s] injury and the fact that Steve Lawrie has not trained today with a back problem, Fraser Brown is joining us tomorrow. We really need to have three hookers in the squad because
it’s not a position you can ask someone else to step into.”
Head coach Scott Johnson made clear from the outset that this tour would be about testing Scotland’s strength in depth, but the three injuries suffered in the opening game takes to 15 the number of players unavailable to Scotland, either due to injury or the British and Irish Lions.
Hooker Brown was on the path to international rugby as a teenager, having captained Merchiston Castle School and Scotland at age-grade level. But he suffered serious neck and shoulder injuries as an apprentice at Edinburgh that put him out of action for nearly two years and was released by the capital club two years ago. Taken on by Sale, he feared the injury had not cleared up and quit the game.
The 23-year-old returned to club rugby with Heriot’s, but played in the back row. That sparked his enthusiasm again and this season he was called into the Glasgow squad to provide back-up during the Heineken Cup and appeared off the bench in the RaboDirect PRO12. He was signed up last month on a year’s deal and, having just started pre-season training with Glasgow on Monday, was shocked to receive a call from South Africa.
“It’s a bit unreal to be honest,” he said. “A few months ago I was playing amateur Premier Division rugby and now I’ve been called up to the Scotland squad. I’m immensely proud and hugely excited. I’ve had one day of pre-season training as a professional and now I’m going to South Africa!”
Ross Ford was due to tour but he suffered a torn calf muscle in training before the squad left, while Dougie Hall, the experienced Test hooker at Glasgow, has just returned from injury and so was not fit enough.
The squad remains short on props with only three fully fit but Euan Murray’s hamstring is said to be improving, although he has yet to train. Back rower Johnnie Beattie’s shoulder is much healthier now than it was on Sunday and Tom Heathcote and Alex Dunbar have passed the concussion tests faced so far, so Johnson said there are no plans yet to call for further reinforcements from Scotland.