Rugby Union: Minimal changes for Scots

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THE Scotland selectors did the obvious yesterday when they replaced the injured Rob Wainwright with a forward born and bred in the West Country. Ian Smith, the Gloucester captain, will win his seventh cap when he faces Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday week.

Packing down alongside the Bristolian Alan Sharp and the Cornishman Andy Reed, Smith will be in familiar company. The net has also been cast over Northampton (Neil Edwards and now Peter Walton) this season, though the Anglo-Caledonian connection has yet to help Scotland to a win.

Still, morale was sent soaring by the performance in the unlucky defeat by England on 5 February which followed crushing victories over Scotland by New Zealand and Wales and, had Wainwright not suffered a broken cheekbone against England, the team would have been unchanged.

As it is, the significant change is on the bench, with Craig Chalmers recalled after playing in Scotland A's meritorious 12-9 win over the French in Rennes last Sunday alongside Michael Dods, who kicked three match-winning penalties in that game. Dods, who north of the border has been persistently linked with Hull Kingston Rovers rugby league club, is the younger brother of Peter, Scotland's 1984 Grand Slam full-back.

Meanwhile the Scots are conducting a detailed, not to mention, urgent, investigation into why their captain, Gavin Hastings, has lost the goal-kicking form that made him their record points-scorer. He acknowledged after the England game that more accuracy on his part would have given his team a comfortable win instead of a last-kick defeat.

So Hastings has sat down with Douglas Morgan, the Scotland coach, to endure hours of video recordings of his kicking since 1986 when he came into the side to see if anything technical has caused his change of fortune. As yet, they have not come up with an answer. 'It's almost like a golf swing and it could be something very simple he is doing wrong,' Duncan Paterson, the Scotland manager, said.

England's Senior Clubs' Association yesterday recommended to the Rugby Football Union that their clubs' league/cup squads should be restricted to 50 players each. The decision was reached after consultations with the 40 member clubs who form the top four divisions of the Courage Championship and is a departure from the policy put forward by the SCA's working party, which had recommended a figure of 40.

The proposed restriction is intended to prevent clubs carrying huge squads and so keeping good players idle or at too low a level. Research shows that member clubs currently average more than 100 registered players.

SCOTLAND (v Ireland, Dublin, 5 March): G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); A Stanger (Hawick), S Hastings (Watsonians), D Wyllie (Stewart's Melville FP), K Logan (Stirling County); G Townsend (Gala), G Armstrong (Jed-Forest); A Sharp (Bristol), K Milne (Herriot's FP), P Burnell (London Scottish), S Munro (Glasgow High/Kelvinside), A Reed (Bath), P Walton (Northampton), G Weir (Melrose), I Smith (Gloucester). Replacements: M Dods (Gala), C Chalmers (Melrose), B Redpath (Melrose), C Hogg (Melrose), P Wright (Boroughmuir), K McKenzie (Stirling County).