Gray a doubt for Scotland
February 10, 2011
Edinburgh lock Scott Macleod has been placed on stand-by for Saturday's clash with Wales at Murrayfield © PA Photos
Second-row Richie Gray is in danger of being ruled out of Scotland's Six Nations clash with Wales at Murrayfield on Saturday through illness.
The 21-year-old Glasgow Warriors forward was Scotland's star performer in the 34-21 loss to France last weekend after a barnstorming display in attack and defence. Gray was set to win his eighth cap against Wales in an unchanged starting XV named by Andy Robinson on Wednesday, but now the head coach could be forced to re-jig his side after the lock missed the team photo and final training session before the crucial encounter with a stomach bug.
Nathan Hines may switch from blindside flanker to his more usual second-row spot alongside captain Alastair Kellock, with Richie Vernon promoted from the bench to No.8 and Kelly Brown moving to the blindside flank. Edinburgh lock Scott MacLeod is on standby and could be promoted to the bench.
Scotland head coach Andy Robinson said, "As a precaution we have drafted Edinburgh lock Scott MacLeod to our squad and he trained with us today, having also worked with us earlier in the week. Scott gave a quality performance in Scotland A's victory over Ireland A at Netherdale last month and we would have no qualms if he is required tomorrow."
Encouragingly for Robinson, Hines is unperturbed by the prospect of having to move into the second row should Gray be ruled out.
"It's a little bit easier slipping back into second row," the Leinster forward said. "It's like putting a comfy pair of shoes on, you're pretty much used to being there. It's not going to be a bother."
Hines freely admits that the loss of Gray would be a blow but he is confident that Scotland cope without the Warriors ace.
"Richie's a talented player. He would be a big miss, but the 15 guys that take to the pitch will do their best and make sure their preparation's 100% to try to knock Wales off tomorrow," he said.
While Scotland performed admirably in defeat in Paris last weekend, their set-piece proved surprisingly vulnerable, allowing France to force a penalty try during the first half. However, Hines is optimistic that normal service will be resumed against Wales.
"We've done our best during the week to try and put things right but we'll find out tomorrow," he said. "I expect we won't be pushed around like we were last week."
Robinson, meanwhile, admitted that it wasn't just the set-piece which gave him cause for concern last weekend. The former England boss was also perturbed by the way in which his players were repeatedly caught cold by rapid French counter-attacks from deep.
"We are a good scrum and we have belief in what we do at the scrum," he said. "The guys have worked hard. What is important is that the referee doesn't come with preconceived ideas about our scrummaging and the players are able to show what a good scrum it is.
"But on two of the tries that were scored (against Scotland) we didn't lay a finger on the French attack having turned the ball over - a little bit like schoolboy rugby in some respects. We can't allow that to happen tomorrow. If Wales are to score they're going to have to work really hard to do so."
Despite their poor recent run of results, Wales still boast an impressive array of attacking talents behind the scrum and James Hook's positioning at No.10 suggests the visitors intend to adopt an even more open game plan than usual. Robinson is certainly expecting the Welsh to spread the play at every available opportunity.
"There's going to be a lot of hard work done with the forwards carrying but if either side can get some go-forward I think there will be a lot of width put on the ball," he said.
"The Welsh are very good in their attacking play. They score a lot of tries from counter attack, they have good runners - (Shane) Williams is tremendous at what he does, Lee Byrne coming back to fitness.
"A lot of these guys have played for the Lions so they're very experienced and quality players. We've got to make sure they don't get ball on the front foot - if they do it's going to be a tough day."
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