By Alan Dymock
CHANGE IS coming, or so it would seem north of the border as Scotland today named nine uncapped players for their quadrangular tournament this summer in South Africa against their hosts, Italy and Samoa.
Those nine amongst the 31 are Edinburgh’s Steven Lawrie and Greig Tonks, the full-back who was so impressive in Scotland A’s defeat of England Saxons earlier in the season, Glagow’s Pat MacArthur, Tim Swinson, Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne, Peter Murchie and Tommy Seymour, and Saracens winger Duncan Taylor.
The announcement comes hot on the heels the SRU announcment that Scott Johnson would become Director of Rugby at Murrayfield after the summer tour was over and a new head coach was announced. He would still be the man making all the decisions in South Africa, where the squad will arrive on May 31.
“First up, it’s a strong squad designed to win Test matches against quality opposition,” the coach-cum-director said. “We’ve continued to monitor the players’ form closely and we’ve been pleased that Glasgow have reached the knockout stages of the Rabo.
“We are taking the opportunity to have a look at some players and want to assess what they’re like at this level. We need to be able to find out whether players who’ve done the business for their clubs can replicate that form in international footy.”
With international footy, however, there is always lots of distraction and plenty to look at when changes come. So while there has been plenty of news coming out of Scotland, banging out like the drummers on Murrayfield’s roof, it has all come in a disorderly fashion.
Before it was made official that Johnson would stay on and move closer to the boardroom, Scotland contracted highly rated and hard-edged Ospreys coach Jonathan Humphreys for two years to coach their forwards. Now after the DOR and forwards coach are in place for the summer tour it is announced that the search for a new Head Coach has been concluded but that no further information will become available until some time has passed.
The need to let the public in on good news is admirable, but by trying to generate positive momentum the Scots have let slip something about their workings.
They have shown themselves eager to make moves before the ink has dried on their paperwork, a trait that has got them and young players like Steve Shingler in trouble before. They have also shown that they are happy to talk to fans while money may still be haggled over.
So a forwards coach is opted for before a head coach, who comes in after the DOR climbs up the ladder and away from an exhausting tour. Perhaps there have been negotiations between the three men for some time, but letting the public know in this way makes it complicated to comprehend.
Nevertheless, by asserting that they know their head coach but are waiting bring suggestions that it is someone currently in the club game. The season is already over for Sale Sharks so it is unlikely that an announcement around Bryan Redpath would require sitting on the hands and with Sharks unwilling to terminate his contract because of its length it is unlikely Scotland would be willing to buy him out.
The chatter, then, has tended towards pushing Ewen McKenzie of the Queensland Reds to the front of the queue. However, reports from down under suggest that McKenzie has distanced himself from the job. At the same time, rumours are circulating that Canterbury Crusaders head Todd Blackadder – formerly an Edinburgh Gunner – is the hot favourite to take the job.
It is a waiting game now, but with the way Scotland are flitting and fixing, improving and announcing it could be an exciting summer and beyond for those backing blue.
Scotland squad for quadrangular tournament with South Africa, Samoa and Italy next month:
Backs: Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby), Peter Horne, Ruaridh Jackson (both Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Lamont, Peter Murchie, Henry Pyrgos (all Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor* (Saracens), Greig Tonks and Tim Visser (both Edinburgh Rugby)
Forwards: John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Kelly Brown (Saracens) capt., Geoff Cross, David Denton (both Edinburgh Rugby), Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks), Ross Ford, Grant Gilchrist (both Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester Rugby), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Steven Lawrie (Edinburgh Rugby), Moray Low, Pat MacArthur (both Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Tim Swinson and Ryan Wilson (both Glasgow Warriors).
Matches: Saturday 8 June v Samoa, King’s Park, Durban, kick-off 1.15pm
Saturday 15 June v South Africa, Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, kick-off 4.15pm
Saturday 22 June (final match to decide placings), Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, time TBA