Scots look to the future

RUGBY UNION: Hastings leads the rallying call
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The Independent Online
Fortress Murrayfield is now looking as impregnable as a garden shed with a loose door hinge. Canada are entitled to fancy their chances in today's international and they do.

Nine matches in a row without a win have put Scottish rugby at a low ebb but they remain confident of providing what might - given Canada's display against France last time out - be regarded as an upset .

"We are at our most dangerous when we've been written off," Gavin Hastings said. "There is an awful lot of youth and pace in the team and it is vital that is seen."

Ten changes (two enforced by injury) have evoked memories of 1986 when Scotland enlisted six new caps, including Hastings. "I would not be surprised if the nucleus of the side for the next five or six years is reflected in this selction," he said. "For us this is effectively the first game of the Five Nations . We have got five internationals in the next 10 weeks and this is the first."

Match analysis has largely centred on Canada's recent encounters with France and England, but a more relevant comparison may be Canada's famous victory over Wales in Cardiff. It is a moot point whether Scottish rugby is in a bigger mess today than Welsh rugby was a year or two ago.

Gambles have been taken amounting to much more than 10 changes and new caps for Stewart Campbell, Eric Peters and Dave Hilton. The most desperate ploy appears to be the recruitment of a sports psychologist who has worked with the Scottish women's bowls team.

Canada have been upbeat from the moment they arrived in Ediburgh a week ago minus five leading players. Their coach, Ian Birtwell, has seemed keen to talk up his side's chances and highlight the pressure Scotland are under. Whether it is confidence or misplaced bravado remains to be seen.

What is certain is that today's match has failed to capture the public imagination. Cash (£17 per ticket) will be taken at the turnstile for a full international at Murrayfield for the first time since 1990. A crowd of around 25,000 is anticipated in a stadium built to hold 67,500 and recently refurbished at a cost of £45m.

SCOTLAND: G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); C Joiner (Melrose), G Townsend (Gala), I Jardine, K Logan (both Stirling County); C Chalmers, B Redpath (both Melrose); D Hilton (Bath), K Milne (Heriot's FP), P Wright (Boroughmuir), D Cronin (Bourges), S Campbell (Dundee HSFP), R Wainwright (West Hartlepool), E Peters (Bath), I Morrison (London Scottish). Replacements: C Glasgow (Heriot's FP), G Shiel (Melrose), D Patterson (West Hartlepool), P Burnell (London Scottish), K McKenzie (Stirling County), S Munro (G lasgow High/Kelvinside).

CANADA: S Stewart (University of British Columbia Old Boys); W Stanley (University of British Columbia), C Stewart (Rovigo), S Gray (Kats), R Toews (Meraloma); G Rees (Newport, capt), J Graf (UBC OB); E Evans (IBM Tokyo), M Cardinal (James Bay), D Jackart (UBC OB), M James (Burnaby Lake), K Whitley (Calgary Irish), I Gordon (James Bay), C McKenzie (UBC OB), G MacKinnon (Ex-Britannia Lions). Replacements: R Ross (James Bay), I MacKay, P LeBlanc (both Kats), K Svoboda (Ajax Wanderers), J Hutchinson (UBC O B), B Breen (Meraloma).

Referee: C Thomas (Wales).

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