Robinson calls up 'Jurassic' White to replace ultra-modern Stevens

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The Independent Online

Andy Robinson avoided anything concerning Welsh rugby like the proverbial plague yesterday, which is precisely what a certain Mike Ruddock would do if he had his time over again.

The England coach did, however, offer a few thoughts on the way the world champions currently run their operation. After naming a starting line-up showing two changes for the Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield this weekend, Robinson stressed the importance of "integrated relationships", as opposed to the rampant back-stabbing that characterises union life in Cardiff and its environs.

"I won't talk about Mike Ruddock's departure as coach of Wales; for a start, I don't know what happened," Robinson said. "What I do know is that a big part of the improvement in our performance in recent months has been to do with leadership. The game is about the players, and the key factor from my point of view is the empowerment of players.

"That means building relationships, and not taking those relationships for granted. There will be down times as well as good times, but honesty is crucial.

"We expect people to front up on the field, but fronting up off the field is every bit as important. People have to be prepared to talk face to face."

He would not have said so openly in a month of Sundays, but Robinson was drawing a sharp distinction between the solidarity in the England camp with the shattered sense of unity on the other side of the Severn Bridge. "I want everyone involved with this side to walk over hot coals to make England successful, to run through brick walls," he said, before adding with a grin: "And sometimes run into space as well."

If England run into more space than usual in Edinburgh this weekend, it will not be as a result of the enforced change of personnel in their front row. Matt Stevens, the Bath prop who performed as well as anyone in the opening two rounds of the Six Nations Championship, has been invalided out of the team with a sprained shoulder, leaving the less mobile Julian White to perform the onerous duties on the tight-head side of the scrum. Robinson said Stevens would not have been fit to train until Friday at the earliest, a scenario he was unwilling to contemplate ahead of what promises to be a physically demanding encounter.

White, something of a Jurassic type when weighed against his ultra-modern rival, will cover only a fraction of the ground and make a tenth of the tackles England have come to expect from Stevens. Robinson had no issue with the selection, however. "Scotland will bring a strong driving game, so having Julian and Andrew Sheridan on the field is an ideal way to counter it," he commented.

The other change sees Josh Lewsey return to the full-back position ahead of his fellow Wasp, the converted wing Tom Voyce.

Scotland have made three alterations to the line-up that lost in Wales 10 days ago. Marcus Di Rollo has recovered from injury and regains his place in midfield, Dougie Hall of Edinburgh returns at hooker and Scott MacLeod gets a run at lock in place of the suspended Scott Murray.

* The centre Yannick Jauzion is set to miss the rest of France's Six Nations campaign with a broken toe.

* The Rugby Football Union has settled its long-running dispute with Premier Rugby a week before it was to due to reach the High Court, by agreeing to make outstanding Lions payments to Wasps, Leicester and Sale. The RFU withheld funding at the start of this season after the three clubs refused to honour a rest and recuperation period for their Lions players.