Robinson taking one game at a time
November 9, 2009
Robinson was appointed Scotland coach in June this year © PA Photos
Scotland coach Andy Robinson has played down talk of a revolution after making 10 changes to his side for their opening clash of the autumn against Fiji.
Robinson, who succeeded Frank Hadden this summer, has retained just five of those who started the side's last fixture against England in March. He also has a new captain in the shape of scrum-half Chris Cusiter who will share the leadership duties with fellow No.9 Mike Blair.
"This is about picking a side to perform against Fiji and we look at this as a 22," stressed the former England coach. "The guys that haven't been selected that are on the bench, they've got an impact to make as well. It's about the whole squad and how that works."
Robinson's powerful looking line-up includes brothers Rory and Sean Lamont at fullback and wing respectively but he denied the selection represented a new way of thinking. "It's a team to play Fiji and win the game and the key for us is that we understand that rugby is a physical game; you have to win the collisions, you have to establish a go-forward. But it's also about having the skill levels to open up the spaces. I'd like to think that we've got the balance there in the 22 to be able to deliver that."
Fiji are currently 9th in the IRB World Rankings, one place above the Scots, but Robinson needs no reminding of the challenge awaiting his side. "They love running with the ball, they also love hitting you and going forward in defence and smashing you backwards. So we've got to be able to deal with their physicality, we've got to be able to attack through the spaces."
There is one new cap in Worcester centre Alex Grove and a first start for Glasgow prop Moray Low, both of whom revealed the side had actually been selected last Monday.
"It's a tough team pick; there's a real competition for places, and a number of 50-50 calls that had to be made," said Robinson. "It's looking at the balance of the squad, looking at how we're going to put combinations together. I've been pleased with the way that Sean Lamont has performed for the Scarlets, but also Rory at Toulon, both going to new clubs.
"Chris Cusiter as captain; I think he's had a great impact with Glasgow Warriors this year. It's been tough for him because he's had a number of injuries at times and a bit of illness, but when he's performed, he's been right up there."
Explaining what gave Cusiter - who has yet to lead his country - the nod over Blair who had been sole captain for the last year and a half, Robinson said: "At times, you look at the team you're playing against. But also, these calls are very close; I've got to pick one of these guys and I felt that it was right to start with Chris. He has been very consistent this year and I've enjoyed watching the way that he's run with the ball as well."
With the talismanic Paterson on the bench, the onus will be on fly-half Phil Godman to translate his Edinburgh form on to the international stage. Robinson said, "Phil's had a good record for Scotland - 81% in the Magners League last year and I've been pleased with the times he's goal-kicked at international level. It's about Phil stepping up and obviously Chris will have an impact at some stage in the game."
The other big surprise was the absence of Glasgow wing Thom Evans from the 22. Robinson explained once he had decided Evans was not going to start, he wanted more versatility on the bench. "Chris Paterson covers 10 and 15 and Nick de Luca will be covering 12 and 13 and the wing."