Rugby Union: Scots players pipe up by threatening to pack their bags

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The Independent Online
IF THERE are such things as sobering thoughts, Scotland's pubs are pretty nearly drunk-free at the moment. Having just seen their strongest district beaten 84-5 by the All Blacks' midweek XV, Scotland's A side now has the jolly prospect of facing New Zealand's first team here this afternoon.

Defeat is one thing, humiliation quite another, and the Scots are currently engaged in the biggest wave of national soul-searching that rugby union has ever witnessed up here. More and more influential voices are warning that unless Scottish rugby books itself in for urgent surgery, its top players will pack their bags and migrate south for the winter months.

The people most getting it in the neck are those who run rugby in the heartland of the Scottish game (and the venue for Wednesday night's equivalent of Flodden), the Borders, where they are bluntly accused of not being able to see further than their own kilts. The 'aye been' (what's always been) mentality is what they call it up here, the idea that whatever was good enough a century ago is good enough today.

Borders rugby parochialism manifests itself in arranging so many weekends of seven-a-side tournaments that it cuts down the number of meaningful 15-a-side matches and leaves no room for a Scottish Cup competition. Scottish rugby is starving, so what do they do? Do away with the main course and bring round the brandy and cigars.

Two Scottish players, Craig Chalmers and Iwan Tukalo, have already warned of a player drain to England, and Tukalo said yesterday: 'Those who have claimed that if the full Scottish side is OK there can't be much wrong with the system will have had this myth shattered by Wednesday's result.'

Further evidence that Scottish rugby is shorter on depth than most people realise came with yesterday's announcement that Chris Gray, the Nottingham forward, has withdrawn from the Scotland Development XV to play the All Blacks on Tuesday and has been replaced by Neil Edwards, of Northampton. Development XV? These two are a good deal closer to old boilers than spring chickens (Edwards is 34) and the team is captained by another 30- year-old, Doug Wyllie.

Wyllie is also captain for today's game at Old Anniesland, Glasgow High's ground, replacing Craig Chalmers, who was injured in the All Blacks game, at stand-off. 'We won't be overawed,' Wyllie said, although it will be interesting to see whether the A side plays the same open game that the All Blacks, hardly surprisingly, congratulated the South on playing.

The All Blacks also thanked the opposition for showing due respect while they performed the haka, although they could also have thanked them for standing respectfully motionless for the next 80 minutes as well. Laurie Mains, the coach, nevertheless claimed that his team was 'on edge' for today's game 'because there are still Test places up for grabs'. Scotland will announce their own side for the Murrayfield international tomorrow morning.

Even without Chalmers, the As contain four survivors from the midweek thrashing, which is tough going even for those who believe the best way to get over a car crash is to get straight back behind the wheel. In the same circumstances, even the Marquis de Sade might have phoned in with a pulled hamstring.

SCOTLAND A: M Dods (Gala); K Logan, I Jardine (Stirling County), S Nichol (Selkirk), G Parker (Melrose); D Wyllie (Stewart's / Melville FP), B Redpath (Melrose); A Watt (Glasgow High / Kelvinside), K McKenzie (Stirling County), D Herrington (Heriot's FP), S Munro (Glasgow High / Kelvinside), A Macdonald (Heriot's FP), D McIvor (Edinburgh Academicals), C Hogg (Melrose), R Wainwright (Edinburgh Academicals).

NEW ZEALAND: J Timu; J Wilson (Otago), F Bunce (North Harbour), M Cooper (Waikato), V Tuigamala (Auckland); M Ellis (Otago), S Forster (Otago); O Brown (Auckland), S Fitzpatrick (capt), C Dowd (Auckland), I Jones (North Auckland), S Gordon (Waikato), P Henderson (Southland), A Pene, J Joseph (Otago).

Referee: F Burger (South Africa).