This time last year, Chris Paterson was a Lions full-back in-waiting – a stone-cold certainty to make Graham Henry's 37-strong tour party, and a very decent bet for a Test place against the Wallabies. As of yesterday, he is no longer Scotland's full-back, let alone anyone else's. Ian McGeechan, the national coach, has shifted the 23-year-old Edinburgh player to the left wing for tomorrow's Six Nations match with Ireland at Murrayfield, and it may be that he will stay there for some time to come.
An attacking runner of unusual gifts – "Chris is one of the quickest players in Scottish rugby, a natural attacker," McGeechan said as he revealed his hand for the weekend – Paterson's defensive frailties were exposed in those championship matches that beat the foot-and-mouth blockade.
Paterson might have survived in his preferred position, but for Glen Metcalfe's impressive run of Celtic League form with Glasgow. Metcalfe last played international rugby during Scotland's famous Calcutta Cup victory over England in April last year; injured during the early stages of his country's subsequent tour of New Zealand, he spent an entire season out of circulation. His return, combined with the withdrawal of the unfit Kenny Logan, has pushed McGeechan into a bold restructuring of his back three.
The coach has tinkered with his pack too, with Jason White, a blind-side flanker by instinct, picked alongside Scott Murray in the second row. The No 6 shirt goes to Gordon Simpson of Glasgow, the subject of disciplinary action last season but back to his rumbustious best this term. As expected, Simon Taylor of Edinburgh beats John Petrie to the No 8 berth and joins the captain, Budge Pountney, in what appears a finely balanced back row.
By the time England meet Scotland again, at Murrayfield in the first week of February, the Rugby Football Union's new "Head of Elite Coach Development" – quite a mouthful by any standards – will be a month into the job. The position has been awarded to the former Wales coach Kevin Bowring, who preceded Graham Henry at what was then the Arms Park. "Throughout the interview process, Kevin proved to be the outstanding candidate," said Clive Woodward, the red rose manager, yesterday.
Bowring, a quick-witted flanker with Neath and London Welsh during a playing career that earned him Wales B and Barbarians honours, will report to the RFU's performance director, Chris Spice. He has been given responsibility for coaching development at England representative level, and will work alongside the 12 Premiership directors of rugby. "Kevin has vast experience in coaching and management," said Spice. "He will play a vital role in the future of England rugby."
Canada's fixture with the world champions of Australia in Vancouver next month is almost certain to be scrapped, following the Wallaby hierarchy's decision to request a cancellation through the offices of the International Rugby Board. Rugby Canada, the home union, is currently faced with strike action by more than 50 leading players following its decision to sack the popular national coach, Dave Clark, for acting outside his brief in attempting to negotiate sponsorship deals on behalf of his charges. The Australians are now seeking an extra game in Europe to flesh out their end-of-season tour.
At least the IRB can now attend to some meaningful business. All the recent talk in the corridors of power has been of nominees for the board's first Player of the Year ceremony, due to be held in London in November. For those who believe rugby needs yet more gongs to be handed out, the candidates are George Gregan and George Smith of Australia, Keith Wood and Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland, and Jonny Wilkinson of England.
Injury-hit Swansea have registered Robert Jones, the 35-year-old former Wales captain, for this season's Heineken Cup campaign.
(v Ireland, Six Nations' Championship, Murrayfield, tomorrow)
G Metcalfe (Glasgow); J Steel (Glasgow), J McLaren (Glasgow), J Leslie (Northampton), C Paterson (Edinburgh); G Townsend (Castres), B Redpath (Sale); T Smith (Northampton), G Bulloch (Glasgow), M Stewart (Northampton), J White (Glasgow), S Murray (Saracens), G Simpson (Glasgow), S Taylor (Edinburgh), B Pountney (Northampton, capt).
Replacements: S Scott (Edinburgh), G Graham (Newcastle), S Grimes (Newcastle), J Petrie (Glasgow), A Nicol (Glasgow), D Hodge (Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow).Reuse content