Having led the monumental tackle count in the defensive tour de force that did for the Wallabies at Murrayfield last weekend, John Barclay would have been expecting to keep his place on the blindside flank for Scotland's final test of the autumn against Argentina this Saturday.
However, when it came for the team to be announced in Edinburgh yesterday it emerged that Barclay had not been a banker for the No 7 spot. Indeed, the Glasgow player found himself out of the match-day 22 altogether as Andy Robinson looked to switch the emphasis from defence to attack, and to developing the depth of Scotland's resources on the road to the 2011 World Cup.
With two wins from two matches behind him – a comfortable 23-10 success against Fiji and the seat-of-the-pants 9-8 victory over Australia – Robinson, Scotland's still newish head coach, announced what he described as three "subtle" changes for the challenge of facing the nation whose 25-18 win at Twickenham three years ago precipitated his fall as England head coach. The most notable of those is the omission of Barclay and the selection at openside flanker of the 24-year-old uncapped Edinburgh player Alan MacDonald.
"I thought John Barclay played really well at the weekend in a defensive performance," Robinson said. "He led the tackle count but Alan MacDonald has been really pushing for a spot in the way he's been playing for Edinburgh. He's been pushing in training and in the Scotland 'A' team. I was looking at making changes for this last game whatever happened against Australia and I thought it was important to have another No 7 competing and pushing John over the next couple of years. Rightly, John is disappointed but the way he trained today was brilliant, in terms of support of the team."
MacDonald was one of the stars of the Scotland A team's 38-7 win over Tonga at Galashiels last Friday night. So were the two men who have been drafted into the three-quarter line: Edinburgh centre Ben Cairns and Glasgow wing Thom Evans. "I thought the midfield needed freshening up, because we've not really attacked that well," Robinson said. "Shifting Alex Grove from 13 to 12 gives us the centre combination we had in the A team at the Nations Cup last summer. I think we need a bit of extra pace in the side and Thom Evans provides that. He's our quickest player. He did well with the As.
"We didn't prepare last week to defend as much as we did and if we defend as much this week we'll lose. It's only on special occasions that you get away with winning a game having given the opposition so much ball. We were lucky enough to win that game by inches. We've only won twice in nine games against Argentina. They're a tough team to play against. They have strengths right across the pitch. We're going to be asked a lot of questions at the weekend, different questions than we were asked last Saturday."
Scotland team to play Argentina (Murrayfield, Saturday, 2.30pm): R Lamont (Toulon); S Lamont (Scarlets), A Grove (Worcester), B Cairns (Edinburgh), T Evans (Glasgow); P Godman (Edinburgh), C Cusiter (Glasgow, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), M Low (Glasgow), N Hines (Leinster), A Kellock (Glasgow), A Strokosch (Gloucester), A MacDonald (Edinburgh), J Beattie (Glasgow). Replacements: D Hall (Glasgow), K Traynor (Edinburgh), J White (Clermont Auvergne), R Vernon (Glasgow), R Lawson (Gloucester), C Paterson (Edinburgh), N De Luca (Edinburgh).Reuse content