Robinson calls for fast start for Scotland
Perhaps Andy Robinson is taking a leaf out of the Welsh song book. A fortnight ago Warren Gatland and his players headed off to Murrayfield with "Under Pressure" blaring over the stereo system.
This time, for tomorrow afternoon's Six Nations engagement in the west end of Edinburgh, the theme for Robinson and his Scotland team could be another David Bowie classic.
"Changes"? There have been so many of them, the home line-up is only half-recognisable from the XV who performed so abjectly in the 24-6 capitulation to the under-pressure Welsh.
Scotland's head coach has made seven alterations in personnel plus one positional switch. In come Chris Paterson at full-back, Sean Lamont at inside- centre (Nick de Luca moving to outside-centre), Ruaridh Jackson at outside-half, Mike Blair at scrum-half, Moray Low at tight-head prop, Richie Gray in the second row and Johnnie Beattie at No 8. Some of the changes have been enforced, with Hugo Southwell and Joe Ansbro on the injured list and Euan Murray observing his traditional match-free Sabbath, but the net result is a sweeping makeover with the aim of repeating the kind of turnaround Scotland managed in the autumn when scalping the Springboks a week after losing by 46 points to the All Blacks.
"It's always better to be making changes if you're winning, but we're not in that position," Robinson said. "We're making changes because I think it's right that we have this team to go out and beat Ireland. I've looked at the Wales game nine times now and the start doesn't get any better. What hurt us was the way we started the game, the unforced errors, the errors that were forced inside our half. If we continue to do that we'll get beaten by any team. An average Wales side beat us. That's what hurts even more."
Ireland have hardly hit the heights they scaled during their Grand Slam campaign of 2009 but after struggling to nail the Italians in Rome they were certainly above average in their 25-22 defeat by France in Dublin a fortnight ago. Like Scotland, they also have a changed half-back pairing, with Eoin Reddan replacing the injured Tomas O'Leary at scrum-half and Ronan O'Gara getting the nod ahead of Jonathan Sexton at outside-half.
According to Brian O'Driscoll, the latter call will make little difference. "In Ronan and Jonathan we've got two fly-halves who are playing very well," the Irish captain said yesterday. "They're both really controlling figures. Irrespective of who's playing, our game-plan doesn't change."
Still, it will be intriguing to see how Jackson, on his first start for Scotland in the pivotal No 10 position, matches up against O'Gara, a veteran of 105 caps and a master of pulling the territorial strings. In contrast to Dan Parks, who drops to the bench, Jackson is an instinctive attacker of the gain-line, and the 23-year-old will have Scotland's most potent back-line ball carrier directly outside him, with the 6ft 2in and 16st Lamont making his first appearance as an inside-centre.
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