Coach Vern Cotter praised skipper Greig Laidlaw as the scrum-half prepares to win his 50th cap and draw level with David Sole’s record 25 Tests as Scotland captain against France at BT Murrayfield tomorrow.
However, the Kiwi said it was time for more players to “back him up” as the Scots look to build on the morale-boosting 36-20 victory in Rome a fortnight ago.
Cotter has made two changes from the team which beat Italy to end a nine-game losing streak in the competition, with two Glasgow Warriors Replacing club-mates as Josh Strauss comes in for Ryan Wilson at No 8 and Alex Dunbar is preferred to Mark Bennett in the centres. Wilson drops onto the bench, while Bennett misses out on the squad.
Cotter stuck by Laidlaw as his skipper after last year’s Six Nations whitewash when there were voices calling for him to lose his place in the side, never mind the captaincy, and the Gloucester scrum-half went on to have a strong World Cup and earn a World Player of the Year nomination.
The coach said yesterday: “I think everybody can see the effect Greig has on his team-mates. I think he has developed well as a leader.
“I think he’s grown as a man and has really taken on the responsibility of leading the team. Everybody was ready to write him off but I think he’s stood up, he’s done a good job, he keeps the scoreboard ticking over [with his goalkicking], he’s a good player.
“We are pleased for him winning his 50th cap but I think, as he’s said himself, he’s more focused on the performance than his own personal achievement.
“What we need are more people to back him up. We need more leaders in the group.”
With David Denton out with a groin injury, Cotter
explained why he had decided to opt for Strauss, who will earn his seventh cap and first at BT Murrayfield. “Ryan hurt his ankle and came off [in Rome], was in a boot for a week and couldn’t train. Strauss was able to train,” he explained. “And it corresponds with the fact that it does bulk us up, it does give us a bit more power.”
Dunbar returns to the national team after over a year out with a long-term injury that was followed by a succession of separate minor setbacks and is a player Cotter admires.
“I think he’s a quality
player,” said Cotter of the man who will wear the No 12 jersey tomorrow, with Duncan Taylor moving to outside centre. “I don’t want to talk too much about him and apply too much pressure on him. But he brings a lot to his team when he plays.”