Rugby Union: Telfer is dogged by absentees

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND'S FOUR-MATCH tour to South Africa has been turned into an experimental exercise rather than the team-building trip Jim Telfer, the coach, was hoping for. Telfer is deprived of six prominent members of the side which won the Five Nations' Championship this season plus six more who would be virtual certainties to win a place in his World Cup squad. It means that Telfer has been forced to name nine uncapped players in his 30-man squad.

They include Glasgow Caledonians' 21-year-old back-row forward Jason White, who was banned the last time he came up against a South African side after stamping on Bramm van Stratten during the Springboks' autumn tour.

Telfer has at least been able to recall the injury-hit half-back pair of Bryan Redpath and Duncan Hodge, the latter almost certain to be handed the stand-off role in the absence of Gregor Townsend, one of three players who have been rested. "There are more youngsters than I would have hoped, and it has turned into more of a development tour," said Telfer, whose side open their programme against Border on 21 June.

"My first priority is to try and keep the momentum going from the Five Nations, so we will keep the same style of game and hope the newcomers fit in. But it would be fair to say that the friendlies against Romania and Argentina at the start of next season will have more bearing on our plans for the World Cup."

The centre pairing of Jamie Mayer and Rowen Shepherd will be looking to make the most of the absence of the first-choice Alan Tait and John Leslie, while Stuart Reid, the Leeds No 8, continues to deputise for Eric Peters.

Scotland's preparations have been further complicated because the prop Tom Smith has still to prove his fitness after breaking his leg in the victory over Ireland at Murrayfield in March. Although Smith's rehabilitation work is progressing smoothly, the Glasgow Caledonians front row gets married on 5 June and returns from honeymoon days before the party are due to depart on 14 June. Scotland's medical team will have little time to assess whether Smith is strong enough to withstand what is sure to be a physical tour.

Northampton yesterday confirmed the signing of the Wales and Lions centre Allan Bateman on a two-year contract. Bateman follows his fellow Welsh internationals Craig Quinnell, who has joined Cardiff, and the Bristol- bound Barry Williams in leaving financially troubled Richmond.

SCOTLAND SQUAD (to tour South Africa, 21 June-3 July): Backs: G Armstrong (Newcastle, capt), C Chalmers (Edinburgh Reivers), D Hodge (Edinburgh Reivers), C Joiner (Leicester), S Longstaff (Glasgow Caledonians), J McLaren (Bourgoin), J Mayer (Edinburgh Reivers), G Metcalfe (Glasgow Caledonians), C Moir (Northampton), C Murray (Edinburgh Reivers), C Paterson (Gala), B Redpath (Edinburgh Reivers), R Shepherd (Glasgow Caledonians). Forwards: R Beattie (Newcastle), S Brotherstone (Edinburgh Reivers), G Bulloch (Glasgow Caledonians), P Burnell (London Scottish), I Fullarton (Edinburgh Reivers), G Graham (Newcastle), S Grimes (Glasgow Caledonians), M Leslie (Edinburgh Reivers), A Lucking (Edinburgh Reivers), C Mather (Edinburgh Reivers), M Proudfoot (Edinburgh Reivers), B Pountney (Northampton), S Reid (Leeds), R Russell (Edinburgh Reivers), T Smith (Glasgow Caledonians), D Weir (Newcastle), J White (Glasgow Caledonians).

ITINERARY: Monday, 21 June v Border (East London, 3.30 local time); Friday, 25 June v Northern Free State (Welkom, 7.00); Tuesday, 29 June v Mpumalanga (Witbank, 6.15); Saturday, July 3 v Golden Lions (Johannesburg, 3.10).

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