Rugby Union: Scotland stand by their men

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AN UNCHANGED team to play France in Paris on Saturday week betokens familiar Scottish continuity but in fact Alan Sharp would almost certainly have won his first cap if he had been fit. Now the best the Bristolian/Caledonian can hope for is a place against Wales on 20 February.

For this game it is the barn-door Alan Watt rather than the roly- poly Sharp who remains at loose- head prop. There is ample potential for discomfiture given that Watt was less than comfortable during the win over Ireland and the French scrummaged impressively against England.

The big thing Watt brings, apart from being a big thing, is the line- out expertise of a natural lock. This is an area in which the Scots, with Cronin, Reed and Weir as well as Watt, believe they could gain a distinct advantage.

Sharp would have solidified the scrum but even the most intensive course of treatment in the London Scottish hyperbaric chamber to hasten the healing of a hairline fracture of the left leg could not get him ready. Even so, he will travel to Murrayfield for assessment while Gavin Hastings's team are training on Sunday.

Now that they are fit Gregor Townsend and Carl Hogg, who would probably have been picked to face Ireland but for injury, come on to the bench in place of Ian Jardine and Stuart Reid.

Rob Wainwright, the back-row forward who will be a serious contender once he has recovered from an Achilles-tendon operation, had been hoping to play last weekend so that he could be considered for this match. But he is nowhere near ready and may be forced to miss the entire Championship.

Meanwhile, Rob Andrew will warm up for England's match in Wales in the Wasps' second team against London Irish reserves on Saturday. The record-breaking outside-half, still serving a 120-day ban from competitive rugby after his return from France, could have played in the first team's friendly against Rosslyn Park, but the club selectors have stuck with Adrian Thompson.

SCOTLAND (v France, Paris, 6 February): G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); A Stanger (Hawick), S Hastings (Watsonians), G Shiel (Melrose), D Stark (Boroughmuir); C Chalmers (Melrose), G Armstrong (Jed-Forest); A Watt (Glasgow High/Kelvinside), K Milne (Heriot's FP), P Burnell (London Scottish), D Cronin (London Scottish), A Reed (Bath), D Turnbull (Hawick), G Weir (Melrose), I Morrison (London Scottish). Replacements: K Logan (Stirling County), G Townsend (Gala), A Nicol (Dundee High School FP), C Hogg (Melrose), P Wright (Boroughmuir), I Corcoran (Gala).