Rugby: Tough test for Scotland

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The Independent Online
Richie Dixon, the Scotland coach, has warned his side against complacency when they face Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday, despite the visitors' damaging defeat by England at Twickenham last month.

Dixon believes the Italians will provide his side with a much sterner test than they posed England, and said: "Italy play as well as France in terms of creating and using space. I've had a look at their squad and I think we can expect them to play different locks from those who appeared against England because they did not win enough possession at the line- out.

"Italy also have flair. They certainly troubled England in the second half when they scored three very good tries. And what is more they defended well. I would say Italy have developed their game on defence."

The Scotland coach has not ruled out the possibility of using substitutes. He added: "I never say never. We thought about making a substitution in the match against Australia, but in the end did not bother."

Meanwhile, recalled lock Andy Reed has revealed the main difference in Scotland's preparations for international matches since his last Murrayfield game against France in 1994. Reed, who will play alongside his Wasps club partner Damian Cronin in the second row, said: "I've noticed there is not the mad panic to get the team prepared that there was in seasons gone by.

"We now meet up on the Monday before the match and therefore have much more time to prepare ourselves properly. The intensity is just the same, but the approach is different." Dixon believes the rest and relaxation is vital to his side's new approach. "Quality rest is as important as quality work," he said.

Meanwhile, Matt Singer, Cambridge's two-try Varsity match-winner, could be a top player with Saracens next season if he wants to make rugby his day job. Singer twice scythed through Oxford's defence to make it a hat- trick of Bowring Bowl wins for Cambridge at Twickenham on Tuesday.

It was an English centre devastating a defence on a big Twickenham day and the crowd had not seen that for a long time.

Singer played a handful of games for Saracens last season and the north London club's coach, Mark Evans, said: "He will challenge strongly for a first-team place for us, but it will be at full-back, which is his favourite position. He will not be knocking out Philippe Sella at centre just yet, but he is a gifted player, with the potential to kick goals."

Singer put Cambridge ahead early in the match and then clinched the match with a score straight through the heart of Oxford's tacklers, while in between he landed an impressive drop-goal.

"I know nothing about professional rugby. I am on a teaching course at the moment and I don't know whether to stay with teaching, combine that with rugby or go professional," Singer said.

He is still only 24 and while the debate about centre and full-back in the England team goes on, the selectors might take the chance to explore his centre credentials at A-team level.

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