Cuttitta delighted with Scotland front row options

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter. Picture: SNS
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter. Picture: SNS
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SCOTLAND’S opening win over the USA was far from the complete performance but at least two of the coaching staff have had a spring in their step since the event.

The Scots kept their line intact with a doughty defensive performance to please Matt Taylor and the game was effectively won when Scotland’s set scrum had the Eagles in reverse gear on the very first engagement, which put an even broader smile on Massimo Cuttitta’s already cheery face.

That same scrum then earned a yellow card for Eagles’ prop Olive Kilifi and a first-half penalty try. If that wasn’t enough, the scrum bossed the opposition while blooding two new caps in Gordon Reid and Alex Allan who replaced him for the final 24 minutes. In an odd twist Allan has now played twice as much Test match rugby for Scotland as he has enjoyed this season in Edinburgh’s colours.

Props are like all tradesmen who have to serve a long apprenticeship, they need time in the saddle, they need the sort of experiences that can’t be bought in a gym. In short, props need to prop. Isn’t Cuttitta, Scotland’s burly scrum guru, just a tad frustrated that Edinburgh couldn’t find a little more time to develop one of Scotland’s more promising young props?

“When someone in Edinburgh doesn’t believe, doesn’t want to play him [Allan], it’s for them to choose,” said the amiable Italian. “We think he has potential. They might not have played him for various reasons.

“Every coach has his views. We need to develop Scottish players as part of our system. He came on and did reasonably well. He is a good lad and we believe in him. What happens at a club is a different thing and I can’t question other coaches. He wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think he was talented. I worked with Alex as part of the EDP [elite development] programme. The reason he is here is because he has quality. He needs to work a lot, but he has promise.”

Scotland’s depth in the front row, more puddle than pool in recent years, has been a major headache but, while things are far from perfect, Cuttitta reckons he probably has more options available now that at any other time in his Scotland career.

As well as handing two young loosehead props their debuts, Cuttitta also revealed that Euan Murray, at the opposite end of his career aged 33, is not yet out of the picture. The veteran tighthead was asked to tour but turned down the opportunity on personal grounds. He is also currently out of contract with the relegated Worcester Warriors opting not to extend his deal beyond the end of the season. Cuttitta revealed that he understood Murray had fielded several offers from France.

If the prop’s personal issues are resolved in the near term he may yet join the squad at some stage over the summer bringing even greater depth to the tighthead berth.

“He [Murray] had valid reasons to stay home, family reasons,” Cuttitta revealed. “I hope he is part of this group [in the near future] because he has a lot to offer. Every time he has gone on the field he has offered us a lot. He is the only prop who can tackle 18 times in a game. He does his bit and he is a generous player. He is a good leader and he has charisma and he will be good for the youngsters.”