It should have been a weekend of discovery for Jamie Robinson, the most gifted young centre in Wales. Selected alongside that respected midfield greybeard Allan Bateman for his country's final outing in the disrupted 2001 Six Nations, the Cardiff youngster rather fancied a shot at Brian "Waltzing" O'Driscoll, a lion amongst Lions in Australia last summer. Instead of which... bitter frustration. Robinson was omitted from the starting line-up yesterday after failing to convince Graham Henry, the national coach, of his fitness.
Robinson's dodgy hamstring lets in the much-travelled Leigh Davies, more bash than flash, for his first international since the World Cup warm-up match with Canada more than two years ago. "This is huge for Leigh," said Henry. "When I arrived in Wales, he had a big reputation; a lot of people thought he was going to be a very significant figure at Test level. It hasn't happened. But Leigh has been playing well for Llanelli this season and I see this as a good opportunity for him."
None of which will have made Robinson feel any better. Davies, now 25, may possess a physical dimension far beyond that of the younger man, but Robinson is the more natural footballer – a midfielder armed with sharp pace and, more importantly still, 20-20 vision. His planned partnership with Bateman opened up all sorts of possibilities, especially as Henry had picked a turn-over specialist at open-side flanker in the shape of Brett Sinkinson. As a result of yesterday's setback, the Welsh back division looks more predictable.
Still, Davies is nothing if not powerful. Having been reared by Neath – he won his early caps while at The Gnoll, when he looked like a world-beater – he moved to Cardiff, where he under-performed, and then to Bristol, where he did not perform at all. His return to Wales midway through last season freshened his appetite, and his tackle-busting style will test O'Driscoll's defence at the Millennium Stadium. However, there is no escaping the fact that he is Henry's fifth choice. Mark Taylor and Gareth Thomas are injured, Bateman and Robinson were picked ahead of him. He has much to prove, not least to himself.
Ireland have summoned Trevor Brennan, the hard-nut Leinster forward, to the replacements' bench for Saturday's game, after promoting his provincial colleague Malcolm O'Kelly to the starting line-up. O'Kelly, who cut a forlorn figure during the Lions tour and was scarcely more impressive during his country's heavy Six Nations defeat in Scotland last month, replaces the Ulsterman Gary Longwell in the second row. Longwell fractured a finger in training, shortly after being named in the team.
The Scots have named a 33-man training squad for next week's session at Murrayfield, which signals the start of the build-up for the autumn internationals against Tonga, Argentina and New Zealand. There are four newcomers, and two of them – the centre Kevin Utterson and the flanker Graham Dall, both of whom play for Edinburgh – are actually Scottish. The others, the Glasgow lock Nathan Ross and the Edinburgh loose forward Matt Taylor, were born in Australia but qualify through ancestry. Several other Antipodeans were also named, including Glenn Metcalfe, John Leslie, Robbie Russell and Gordon Simpson.
Harlequins have also been fishing in far-flung waters for reinforcements, and have come up with the Samoan Test hooker Ace Tiatia. The 25-year-old Super 12 player has signed a three-month contract and will fill in for Keith Wood, who is away on international duty, and his fellow islander Tani Fuga, who has a long-term ankle injury.Reuse content