Rugby Union: Scotland drop four for Five Nations

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The Independent Online
Scotland's selectors have dropped four players from the 21 chosen for the 29-22 win over Italy last month for the Five Nations opener against Wales at Murrayfield a week on Saturday.

Left out are the lock Damian Cronin, No 8 Eric Peters, prop Barry Stewart and scrum-half Derrick Patterson, while the flanker Ian Smith is unavailable because of a broken thumb.

In come the scrum-half Gary Armstrong, prop Tom Smith and back-row man Rob Wainwright after injury, while there are also recalls for flanker Peter Walton and lock Shade Munro.

"The hard fact is that Peters and Cronin have been dropped," the team manager, Arthur Hastie, said. "The selectors felt that they were under- performing."

Stewart is left out after being capped against New Zealand in the summer and against Australia in November. "Our feeling is that Barry has reached a plateau and we have recommended that he be played in the A side," Hastie explained.

The selectors have not yet named their captain, but it is likely to be Gregor Townsend, who led the Scots in their three autumn matches at Murrayfield, or Wainwright, Scotland's skipper last season.

Davey Haslett, the coach of Dungannon and Ireland A, is the favourite to succeed the New Zealander Murray Kidd, who has resigned as Ireland's coach "with regret". Kidd became the country's first professional coach in October 1995.

The former All Black Mike Brewer, captain of Blackrock College this season, has been Kidd's assistant with the national squad and would offer some sort of continuity if he were to succeed his compatriot.

Ireland's opening Five Nations' Championship match against France is at Lansdowne Road on Saturday week, which gives Kidd's successor very little time to integrate with and prepare the players.

Brian Moore, Richmond's former England hooker, has been suspended for 60 days after being sent off in the Pilkington Cup tie against Sale before Christmas. Moore was dismissed for trampling on Sale's Dave Baldwin in a ruck.

France signalled their intention to return to their free-flowing style with the appointment of the former international full-back Pierre Villepreux to assist the coach, Jean-Claude Skrela. They have omitted scrum-half Guy Accoceberry their squad for the opening Five Nations' Championship match against Ireland in Dublin on 18 January. Fabien Galthie, of Colomiers, takes Accoceberry's place.

FRANCE SQUAD (v Ireland, Dublin, 18 January): C Califano, F Tournaire, J-L Jordana, M Dal Maso, M de Rougemont, O Merle, F Pelous, H Miorin, A Benazzi (capt), P Benetton, R Castel, F Galthie, P Carbonneau, A Penaud, C Lamaison, T Castaignede, S Glas, R Dourthe, E Ntamack, D Venditti, J- L Sadourny.

SCOTLAND SQUAD (v Wales, Murrayfield, 18 January): Backs: G Armstrong (Newcastle), C Chalmers (Melrose), R Eriksson (London Scottish), S Hastings (Watsonians), K Logan (Stirling Co), B Redpath (Melrose), R Shepherd (Melrose), A Stanger (Hawick), D Stark (Melrose), G Townsend (Northampton). Forwards: G Ellis (Currie), D Hilton (Bath), K McKenzie (Stirling Co), S Monroe (GHK), A Reed (Wasps), T Smith (Watsonians), M Stewart (Northampton), R Wainwright (Watsonians), M Wallace (GHK), P Walton (Newcastle), G Weir (Newcastle).