Scotland worry over Gray as he is 'isolated' with stomach bug
Saturday 12 February 2011
It was not quite a "Who shot Bambi?" moment, although Jeremy Guscott might have seen it that way.
Richie Gray, the 6ft 8in stand-out performer on the opening weekend of the Six Nations, was placed "in isolation" by Scotland yesterday and rated as a big doubt for the engagement with Wales at Murrayfield today.
Described by Guscott as "Bambi on ice" and "too slow and cumbersome" ahead of Scotland's visit to Paris last Saturday, Gray proceeded to look more like Red Rum at Aintree as he galloped around the Stade de France like a second-row thoroughbred. Still, the skids have been put under the towering Glasgow lock.
"Richie has got a stomach bug," Andy Robinson, Scotland's head coach and a team-mate of the princely Guscott in his playing days at Bath, reported after lunchtime training yesterday. "He's been isolated from the camp and we'll make a decision tomorrow morning about whether he plays."
Edinburgh's Scott MacLeod has been drafted into the squad and the chances are that he will be on bench duty today, with Richie Vernon moving up to a starting berth at No 8 and Kelly Brown switching to openside flanker and Nathan Hines into the second row. "These things happen," Robinson said. "You just have take them in your stride"
Perspective is one thing that is unlikely to be lacking as Robinson's Scots, buoyed by an impressive performance in defeat (34-21) against the French, lock horns with a Welsh side beaten 26-19 by England in Cardiff and short on confidence after a run of eight games without a win. It was in the reverse fixture in last year's Six Nations that Thom Evans, Scotland's right wing, suffered the serious spinal injury that ended his highly promising playing career.
At 25, the second cousin of radio presenter Chris Evans is attempting to rebuild his life with another change of career. A member of the successful boy band Twen2y4se7en before making the international grade in rugby union, Evans is on an acting course in Los Angeles with hopes of breaking into movies. He has also been busy dating Kelly Brook (below), the actress, model, and sometime partner of his former Wasps colleague Danny Cipriani.
Thom was offered a date at Murrayfield today, to watch his brother Max win his 17th Scotland cap, but the prospect was too much for him to bear. "He watched the France game on television and it was hugely emotional for him," Max said. "He has seen me playing rugby since the injury but that was the start of the Six Nations, where it all happened last year. I'm sure it would have been even more emotional this week.
"He's very comfortable in Los Angeles. He's thoroughly enjoying the acting. It's still early days but I've no doubt that he will make it in whatever he pursues. It's like when he met up with Kelly Brook. He happened to be in the right place at the right time and he was able to work his magic."
With Max Evans on the left wing, Scotland will be looking to work the kind of try-scoring magic they performed in Paris (where they crossed the home whitewash three times) but while losing the turnover habit that cost them four tries and regaining some clout at the scrum. "We made 200 passes last week," Robinson said. "I was delighted with that. It shows that we're improving our skill levels.
"I'm really looking forward to this Test against Wales. You've got two sides who want to play and who play with width. The key for both teams is how they get go-forward ball. Wales have got some big ball-carriers – Jamie Roberts, Ryan Jones, Bradley Davies, Matthew Rees – and we've got to make sure they don't get that go-forward."
Wales have Ryan Jones at No 8, the former captain replacing the injured Andy Powell for a return to the arena in which he bagged his solitary international try six years ago. "I've been in and around the environment for a long time now, and been through some highs and lows," the 47-cap veteran said.
"There are certain players in this environment that others will look to when things aren't going so well. If those guys are walking round with their heads down, it does have an effect on everyone else. We're the slight underdogs and we've got to thrive on that. We've got to make sure we are bold, brave, and more clinical."
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