Nicol left to count the days

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Andy Nicol has three weeks to prove his fitness to take the vacancy left in the Scotland World Cup squad, which effectively leaves the onus on Bath to give him a first-team chance before the end of the season, writes Steve Bale.

The scrum-half, who has eight caps, joined Bath last May almost as soon as suffering the serious knee injury which has cost him nearly all of this season but has recently had half a game for the third team and a full one for the seconds which was watched by the selectors.

The Scotland party was released by means of an inadvertent fax on Wednesday, thereby reducing yesterday's scheduled announcement to an explanation of selections already known. Duncan Paterson, the Scotland manager, gave Nicol a 50-50 chance of being ready for the squad's visit to Spain next month, failing which the place will go to Derrick Patterson.

Paterson - the manager, that is - noted that Tony Stanger, who has won all his 36 caps on the wing, had been chosen as a centre but would fill in at wing if necessary. Ken Logan, picked as a wing, would be the stand- by full-back for Gavin Hastings, with the lock Doddie Weir and flanker Rob Wainwright the cover for Eric Peters at No 8.

While Weir makes a belated comeback, another Scots Bathonian, the lock Andy Reed, has run out of time as he recovers from a back operation. Hence his omission along with that of Gregor Townsend and Alan Sharp, who are also injured. "Andy has started running but time is his enemy," Paterson said. "He could give us no guarantees about playing."

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