Robinson shakes up Scotland side
Tuesday 10 November 2009
A penny for Andy Robinson's thoughts yesterday as he settled into his seat in an Edinburgh hotel to name his first international XV for three weeks short of three years. Now where was he, before being so rudely interrupted by the thumbs-down of the management board of the Rugby Football Union? Ah yes, picking an England side hamstrung by injury and a collective loss of form – an England side that not once, in his 22-match tenure as head coach, had the luxury of Jonny Wilkinson calling the shots from No 10. What might have been for the red rose Robinson regime had the stricken World Cup winner of 2003 been in the pivotal position for those fateful autumn Twickenham Tests of 2006?
What happens to be in the realms of certainty is that Robinson will be picking up the threads of his international coaching career when Fiji visit Murrayfield on Saturday. It will be his first Test since 25 November, 2006, when a 25-14 defeat against the Springboks set the seal on his time as head honcho at Twickenham. His starting XV for the occasion of his debut as Scotland's head coach has been stamped with his personal imprint.
Of the 15 Scots who lined up at Twickenham back in March for what proved to be the last stand of the Frank Hadden era, a 26-12 defeat against England, only five players have made it on to Robinson's maiden team-sheet: winger Simon Danielli, centre Graeme Morrison, stand-off Phil Godman, hooker Ross Ford and flanker Alasdair Strokosch. Injury has accounted for the absence of several others while the Stade Français No 8 Simon Taylor has removed himself from the selection equation, for the time being at least.
Nonetheless, Robinson has laid down a marker with the selection he has made from a 32-man squad. Chris Cusiter has been given the nod at scrum-half ahead of Mike Blair, who was first choice for the No 9 jersey throughout Hadden's four-year stint in charge.
There is a debut at outside centre for Alex Grove, the Worcester Warrior who qualifies for Scotland through his grandfather. There is also a first start at tighthead prop for Glasgow's Moray Low, while Rory Lamont gets the full-back jersey, ahead of Chris Paterson.
"I looked at how we're going to approach the whole 80 minutes," Robinson said, when asked about the latter call. "I'm very happy that Phil Godman is our front-line goalkicker starting the game. He had an 81 per cent success rate in the Magners League last season. Also, I'm very happy with the way Rory Lamont has been playing at full-back for Toulon. The two Lamonts [Sean, Rory's elder brother, has been picked on the right wing] are dynamic, strong, evasive runners and very powerful."
Robinson's Scotland are likely to need all of the power and dynamism they can get against a Fijian side ranked one place above them, at nine, in the International Rugby Board's global pecking order. Fiji are a well-coached, very physical team," Robinson added. "It's a very good Test match for us. It's all about delivering on game day."
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