Sean Lineen unconcerned by inexperience of squad as he targets Nations Cup defence

THE Scotland A squad which flies out to Bucharest this afternoon to defend their Nations Cup title during the coming fortnight contains half the number of internationalists that were involved in last year's victorious effort.

While the class of 2009 had 12 full caps (including 2005 British and Irish Lion Chris Cusiter, who led the squad), this year there are only six players involved with experience of playing at the highest level.

More significantly, while almost all of the 2010 squad had extensive experience of playing Magners League and Guinness Premiership rugby, several players in this squad have either never or very rarely competed at that level. For example, prop Lewis Niven and stand-off Alex Blair might both have signed full-time professional contracts for next season, but have yet to take to the field for the club in a meaningful match. Others, such as Chris Fusaro and Peter Horne, have played only a handful of pro games.

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Clearly Sean Lineen's men are going to have their work cut-out in their three games – against Georgia on Friday, Namibia next Tuesday and Argentina Jaguars a week on Sunday – but the head coach says he is not going there to make up the numbers.

"There is a lot less experience in this squad but that doesn't concern me," insisted Lineen. "This is the group of players we have got, and the reason why some of the younger guys are in this squad is because they have the raw talent to be very good rugby players. This is a chance for them to show us what they are capable of.

"And although we are asking a few guys to make a big step up, we have also got experience laced right through the team: from Bruce Douglas and Fergus Thomson in the front-row, to Ally Hogg and Roddy Grant in the back-row, to the two scrum-halves Mark McMillan and Greig Laidlaw, and Ben Cairns and Rob Dewey in the centre. Winning the thing is definitely our target."

Lineen said that every member of the 26 man squad will get some sort of game time, and he is looking for his senior men to make sure the youngsters are given as smooth a ride as is possible.

"Everyone is here to play rugby, but this is a Scotland A tour, which is meant to be the next level down from the full national side, so we are not just going to be handing over the jersey unless we are confident the guy can do a job for us," he explained.

"For example, Alex Blair is a really exciting prospect. He's young so he'll make mistakes, but we are looking for him to show a level of maturity so that those mistakes are kept to minimum."

He added: "We have had some very good training sessions leading up to this trip and what has really impressed me is the attitude of the guys. There are different motivations there, some are looking to push their case for a call-up to the full Scotland squad and inclusion in the World Cup, others have their eye on pushing their way up the pecking order at their respective club – but whatever their reason for being with us, everyone seems to be on the same page so far."

Lineen reckons the key to success in Romania is going to lie with the team's ability to face up to the physicality of their opponents.

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"This is one of the most talented, mobile, ball-playing forward packs to have graced a Scotland jersey, and there is no doubt about our ability to play rugby – but we are going to have three really tough, physical games and the real test is going to be whether we can get ourselves to show what we can do with the ball in hand.

"Scotland have been drawn against Georgia in next year's World Cup so this will be an interesting dry run of that game. Namibia are also going to the World Cup, and like Georgia they will be a big, physical side. And we know all about Argentina. So it is going to be really tough, but we're looking forward to it."

In a slightly perplexing change from last year's format (when there was two groups of three feeding into a tournament final), this time there will be five teams competing in one group but playing only three games each. That means Italy A and Romania won't face Scotland.