Southwell adds imported bulk to Scots' cause

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The Independent Online

When Hugo Southwell made his presence felt on his first international start, against Australia in Melbourne in June - shunting Wendell Sailor halfway to Sydney with one shuddering tackle and stopping Lote Tuqiri at full tilt with another - Kenny Logan suggested in the commentary box that the Edinburgh full-back was Scotland's answer to Peter Schmeichel.

When Hugo Southwell made his presence felt on his first international start, against Australia in Melbourne in June - shunting Wendell Sailor halfway to Sydney with one shuddering tackle and stopping Lote Tuqiri at full tilt with another - Kenny Logan suggested in the commentary box that the Edinburgh full-back was Scotland's answer to Peter Schmeichel.

If he turns up early at McDiarmid Park today, the last line of the Scottish defence in that 35-15 defeat could show his worth as a goalkeeper. A First Division football match between St Johnstone and Ross County kicks off at 12.30pm, before Scotland's international against Japan at 5.30pm. After the celebrated squeezing of the sidelines against the Wallabies in Edinburgh last week, there will be a moving of the goalposts in Perth.

Southwell was instrumental at Murrayfield as the Scots snatched the respectability of a 31-14 defeat from the jaws of a 28-0 half-time humiliation. In stepping inside Tuqiri and holding off Stirling Mortlock and Stephen Larkham, he claimed his first Test try and showed the cutting edge Scotland have lately lacked.

At 6ft 2in and 15st, Southwell is powerful and surprisingly elusive, too. He could be the answer to the problem the Scots have encountered in filling the No 15 jersey since Glenn Metcalfe was at the peak of his physical powers. At 24, he could in time even prove to be another Gavin Hastings or Andy Irvine.

He might have been another Ian Botham, but his cricket career came to grief after just one senior first-class match. He took seven wickets for Sussex against Gloucestershire but, frustrated at a lack of first-team chances, he hung up his whites at 19 and enrolled for a business studies and sociology degree.

He graduated as a rugby pro at Worcester, where the former Scotland fly-half Craig Chalmers advised the London-born, Eastbourne-raised Southwell to turn to the land of his Falkirk-born grandfather. Southwell made his Scotland debut against Samoa in Wellington in June, as a replacement for the injured Chris Paterson, and collects his fifth cap today - his first in a starting XV on Scottish soil.

"It's a chance for me to put down a marker," he said, "but there's a lot of competition for places. That's good for Scottish rugby." With just one success in nine matches this year, only a winning marker against an inexperienced Japan will suffice for Scotland and the Sussex old boy.

Scotland: H Southwell (Edinburgh); C Paterson (Edinburgh), B Hinshelwood (Worcester), A Henderson (Glasgow), S Lamont (Glasgow); D Parks (Glasgow), C Cusiter (Borders); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), G Bulloch (Glasgow), G Kerr (Leeds), S Grimes (Newcastle), N Hines (Edinburgh), A Hogg (Edinburgh), D Macfadyen (Glasgow), J Petrie (Glasgow). Replacements: R Russell (London Irish), C Smith (Edinburgh), S MacLeod (Borders), J White (Sale), M Blair (Edinburgh), G Ross (Leeds), G Morrison (Glasgow).

Japan: R Miki (World Fighting Bull); K Kubota (NEC Green Rockets), S Shimomura (Sanyo Wild Knights), Y Motoki (Kobe Steel), H Daimon (Kobe Steel); K Sawaki (Suntory Sungoliath), W Ikeda (Sanyo Wild Knights); Y Hisadomi (NEC Green Rockets), T Yamaoka (Suntory Sungoliath), R Yamamura (Yamaha Motors), T Kumagai (NEC Green Rockets), H Ono (Toshiba Brave Lupus), N Okubo (Southland), H Kiso (Yamaha Motors), T Miuchi (NEC Green Rockets). Replacements: M Yamamoto (Sanyo Wild Knights), M Yamamoto (Toyota Motor Verbitz), F Mau (World Fighting Bull), T Yamaguchi (Kubota Spears), K Tanaka (Suntory Sungoliath), M Mukoyama (NEC Green Rockets), H Yoshida (Kubota Spears).

Referee: A Cole (Australia).

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