Scottish selectors wield axe

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The Independent Online
RUGBY UNION The Scotland selectors yesterday visited a terrible destruction on the team - whom they, after all, had chosen - crushed by South Africa two months ago when they made nine changes for the visit to Murrayfield of Canada on Saturday week.

This is the Scots' Saturday off from the Five Nations' Championship but, even allowing for the presumed inferiority of the Canadians to any of the championship teams, this is an extraordinary attrition rate.

"The nine changes are for a number of reasons but maybe in the past we have been a bit too loyal," Duncan Paterson, the team manager, said. On the other hand, the defeat by the Springboks did not sound so bad when it was attributed in the December issue of the SRU Voice newsletter to "a bad 15 minutes in the middle of the match" by Bill Hogg, the Scottish Rugby Union secretary.

Among the distinguished casualties is the Lions centre Scott Hastings, who is thus left on 51 caps, one short of the Scotland record which, with the addition of the Canada match, will be shared by his brother, Gavin, as well as by Jim Renwick and Colin Deans.

To wield the axe so ruthlessly is a tacit admission of utter selectorial failure against South Africa as well as an indication of desperation now that the Scots have gone nine games - eight of them since Douglas Morgan became coach - without a win. Besides, time is now short to start building a new World Cup side.

Now that they have reacted so radically, it is paradoxical that Morgan and Paterson should have pronounced themselves less dissatisfied with Scotland's performance in the 34-10 defeat by the Springboks than they had been with the 51-15 wipe-out by New Zealand a year earlier. After that humiliating All Blacks match, a mere seven changes followed for the Welsh match which was lost 29-6.

Despite the turnover, there are only two new caps: the 23-year-old Dundee lock Stewart Campbell and the former Cambridge University captain, Eric Peters, the latter coming in on the strength of his displays for various representative teams rather than anything he has done for his club, Bath.

Peters, 25, is the fifth man - behind Hall, Clarke, Robinson and the unsettled Ojomoh - in the English champions' back-row pool and as such has played in precisely one First Division fixture this season. A back injury rules out another Bath forward, the Caledonian Cornishman Andy Reed.

Campbell's inclusion makes a one-cap wonder of Jeremy Richardson. Derrick Patterson, a rarity in having emerged with reputation intact from the Scots' Springbok ordeal, is hard-done-by in likewise being discarded after one appearance at scrum-half.

Craig Joiner would have been a third new cap but for his two appearances in Argentina last summer when most leading Scots were absent. Names from the past which have re-emerged on the selectors' list include those of two 1993 Lions fowards, Damian Cronin, now playing in France, and Peter Wright.

The Exiles team who won the Scottish District Championship supply five members of the pack, the corollary of this being that for the first time since 1972 there is no Border forward in the Scotland team.

Conversely, there are four Borderers, and no Exiles, in the backs - a reflection of the drastic shift in the balance of Scottish rugby power which has contributed to the present tribulation.

SCOTLAND (v Canada, Murrayfield, 21 January): G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); C Joiner (Melrose), I Jardine (Stirling County), G Townsend (Gala), K Logan (Stirling County); C Chalmers, B Redpath (Melrose); A Sharp (Bristol), 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), G Weir (Melrose).