It might not quite be in the £3.6bn Jérôme Kerviel/Société Général class, but Frank Hadden joined the European gambling classes yesterday, banking on Scotland to beat France in their Six Nations Championship opener at Murrayfield on Sunday without the priceless goal-kicking assets of Christopher Douglas Paterson. Well, with them held in reserve, at any rate.
While on the other side of La Manche, Marc Lièvremont was busy unveiling a new-look France side featuring four debutants (among them François Trin-Dhuc, a 21-year-old outside-half of Vietnamese descent), Hadden did his best to trump even the revolutionary-inclined fledgling Gallic coach with the starting XV he announced in Edinburgh yesterday. Or, rather, with the non-starting No 21 that Scotland's head coach announced.
It had been quietly mooted north of the border that Hadden might be considering facing the French without world rugby's leading place-kicker of the past two-and-a-half seasons. It still came as a shock, though, when the team sheet was handed out in the President's Suite at Murrayfield with Paterson's name among the small print of the seven replacements. His right boot has, after all, been Scotland's most potent points-scoring weapon of recent times.
The 29-year-old Borderer topped the place-kicking charts in the past two Six Nations Championships: with 17 out of 19 in 2006, and 22 out of 25 in 2007. He was also the No 1 boot boy at the World Cup last autumn, returning a 100 per cent record, with 17 successes from 17 attempts.
It remains to be seen whether Hadden and his fellow selectors – assistant coaches Alan Tait and George Graham – can afford the luxury of being without Paterson's ability to bisect the H with precision, or whether they will be left kicking themselves. In the meantime, they have entrusted goal-kicking duties to Dan Parks, who was always likely to continue at outside-half ahead of Paterson, and who landed eight out of nine goal attempts at the World Cup.
Paterson, it would seem, has paid the price for his lack of game time since Scotland's World Cup came to an end with a 19-13 quarter-final defeat against Argentina on 7 October. He has started only three games for Gloucester, where the-back-of-all-trades (he has gathered his 81 caps as a wing, full-back and fly-half) is seen as the No 2 stand-off, behind Ryan Lamb.
Hadden, instead, has gone for Parks at outside-half, Nikki Walker and Simon Webster on the wings and Rory Lamont at full-back. He has also picked the uncapped Nick De Luca at outside-centre and dropped Ally Hogg – the second-highest try-scorer in the squad (with nine) behind Paterson (22) – from both the back row and the bench.
"We've had to make the sort of decisions that are probably normally reserved for the English coach because of the options available to him," Hadden said. "I'm not saying we've got as many options as he has, or the French. But I would say we've got as many options as the Welsh and the Irish now, and that's a nice place for us to be.
"There were a number of factors to consider in Chris's case, game time being one of them. We've named him as reserve stand-off and I firmly believe Chris will be integral to us winning the game at the weekend."
Paterson admitted being "massively disappointed" but maintained: "I don't believe this is a winding down of my career, as somebody has just suggested to me. I see it as a new chapter."
Paterson certainly has a greater knowledge of the international arena than the young man who has been entrusted with the No 10 shirt for France on Sunday. Trinh-Duc has been a revelation for Montpellier in France this season and has been rewarded with a first cap – as have the Dax prop Julien Brugnaut, the Clermont wing Julien Malzieu and the Sale prop Lionel Faure.
"I would say the element of risk with the French selection is far greater than ours," Hadden ventured. "Trinh-Duc was a surprise. We didn't see that one coming." Lièvremont, presumably, was saying much the same about the demotion of Paterson.
* The France centre Florian Fritz will miss the entire Six Nations after fracturing his right fibula in training yesterday.
Sunday's Murrayfield teams
15 R Lamont (Sale)
14 N Walker (Ospreys)
13 N De Luca (Edinburgh)
12 A Henderson (Glasgow)
11 S Webster (Edinburgh)
10 D Parks (Glasgow)
9 M Blair (Edinburgh)
1 A Jacobsen (Edinburgh)
2 R Ford (Edinburgh)
3 E Murray (Northampton)
4 N Hines (Perpignan)
5 J Hamilton (Leicester)
6 J White (Sale, capt)
7 J Barclay (Glasgow)
8 D Callam (Edinburgh)
Replacements: F Thomson (Glasgow), G Kerr (Edinburgh), S MacLeod (Llanelli Scarlets), K Brown (Glasgow), C Cusiter (Perpignan), C Paterson (Gloucester), H Southwell (Edinburgh).
15 C Heymans (Toulouse)
14 J Malzieu (Clermont)
13 To be announced
12 D Traille (Biarritz)
11 V Clerc (Toulouse)
10 F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier)
9 J-B Elissalde (Toulouse)
1 L Faure (Sale)
2 W Servat (Toulouse)
3 J Brugnaut (Dax)
4 L Nallet (Castres, capt)
5 L Jacquet (Clermont)
6 F Ouedraogo (Montpellier)
7 T Dusautoir (Toulouse)
8 E Vermeulen (Clermont)
Replacements: N Mas (Perpignan), D Szarzewski (Stade Français), A Mela (Albi), J Bonnaire (Clermont), M Parra (Bourgoin), D Skrela (Stade Français), A Rougerie (Clermont).
Referee: P Honiss (NZ)
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