By Alan Dymock
INTERIM SCOTLAND coaches Scott Johnson and Dean Ryan have named their squad to face the Auld Enemy at Twickenham this Saturday.
The headlines for this line-up come with Sean Maitland starting on the wing for his first cap, forming, what on paper, should be a supremely rapid back three with Stuart Hogg and Tim Visser. It is also noteworthy that an armour plated Sean Lamont starts in the centre, meaning that the Scots have plenty of running options should they create quick ball.
Johnson has not wasted any time shaking things up, with former captain Ross Ford being dropped for Glasgow’s Dougie Hall, while promoting rising star Ryan Grant to co vice captain, alongside Greig Laidlaw who is unceremoniously shunted back to scrum-half.
The move means that in-form Glasgow fly-half Ruaridh Jackson is reinstated, while the dual kicking options mean that Lamont can play in midfield rather than a back who can kick from No 13, like Peter Horne or Hogg. Matt Scott will be a distributer and second receiver, facilitating the runners around him.
The move means that retaining ball is a necessity, so the back row consists of to opensides on either flank, with Captain Kelly Brown wearing No 7 on his back and Alasdair Strokosch wearing No 6. The element of surprise comes in with Johnnie Beattie taking the spot at the back of the scrum, though, with bulldozing back up David Denton waiting to be unleashed later in the game.
With Euan Murray and Jim Hamilton starting, the hope will be that set-piece goes to plan, and with Jackson, the world’s biggest fan of an interception, there will be a need for players who play by numbers during moments of strain, so expect Ryan’s rucking and ruck-side defence to be enacted by the uglier members of the team.
Defence will have to be at its most robust. So despite the headliners in the back three and the changes at half-back, the result of this Calcutta Cup match will be decided by the grunt of the back five members Richie Gray, Strokosch and Brown. If they get through the requisite work, Scotland stand a chance. If they are chasing too often as English attackers pour through the 9-10-12 channel, Scotland face a mighty tough task where not even Jim Telfer can help them.
Scotland starting XV: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont (all Glasgow), Matt Scott, Tim Visser (both Edinburgh); Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow), Greig Laidlaw (vice-captain, Edinburgh); Ryan Grant (vice-captain), Dougie Hall (both Glasgow), Euan Murray (Worcester), Richie Gray (Sale), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Kelly Brown (captain, Saracens), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier).
Replacements: Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Moray Low (Glasgow), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow), David Denton (Edinburgh), Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir (both Glasgow), Max Evans (Castres).