Ireland, still very much in the hunt for the Six Nations title despite a deeply flawed victory in Italy and a narrow home defeat by France, had the luxury of adding two high-performance wings – Tommy Bowe of Ospreys and Andrew Trimble of Ulster – to their squad yesterday for this weekend's trip to Edinburgh. By contrast, Scotland suffered a torrid few hours on the injury front before ruling out three backs: Hugo Southwell, Rory Lamont and Joe Ansbro.
"Making the decision now brings clarity to our preparations," explained the Scotland coach Andy Robinson, still smarting from his side's 80-minute long exercise in blank-firing against Wales at Murrayfield a week and a half ago. "Everybody is hurting after that display," he continued, "but we must now focus on the challenge Ireland bring."
Robinson can survive the withdrawal of the young Northampton centre Ansbro, but as Southwell and Lamont were his full-back options at the start of the tournament, he will have to make do and mend in the No 15 position. He may yet lose a couple of important back-five forwards into the bargain. Neither Nathan Hines nor Richie Vernon are in the best of conditions right now, struggling as they are with knee and calf issues respectively.
The Irish will be pleased to see Bowe, in particular. One of the most eye-catching members of the 2009 Lions Test team, the Swansea-based wing, who turns 27 today, has recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of the opening two tournament rounds.
Wales, meanwhile, have serious doubts over their centre Jonathan Davies, whose excellent form in midfield at both club and international level has forced Warren Gatland and his coaching team into a few selectorial somersaults of late. The Scarlets player twanged a hamstring during Wales' victory over Scotland in round two, and if he fails to heal, Gatland will have to juggle his resources. Stephen Jones and Rhys Priestland will come into his thinking, as will the possibility of moving James Hook away from the outside-half position, one game after moving him into it.
More happily for Gatland, the Cardiff Blues wing Leigh Halfpenny is fit again. "He's been training with us, which is great news," confirmed the assistant coach Neil Jenkins. "He's on his way back."Reuse content