Robinson calls on Scots to impress
August 16, 2011
Hooker Scott Lawson is back in the front row for Scotland © PA Photos
Scotland head coach Andy Robinson has called upon his charges to impress after making wholesale changes for their clash with Italy on Saturday.
The match up with the Azzurri will be the final opportunity for players to win selection for the 30-man World Cup squad, which will be named on Monday, with eight players set to be cut. Robinson today lived up to his promise of offering chances, with 14 changes to the team which beat Ireland on August 6 and only centre Graeme Morrison retained.
The head coach now hopes the changes can encourage his charges to battle for the starting berths for the first World Cup Pool B fixture, the September 10 clash with Romania in Invercargill.
Asked the reason for the number of changes, Robinson said: "It was to give people an opportunity to put their hand up for the World Cup and get into the starting XV - not just about getting in the 30-man squad.
"I rested a number of players before the Ireland match to look at some combinations and now a number of those players - Kelly Brown, Nathan Hines, John Barclay and Al Kellock - come into the starting line-up."
Brown, Hines, Barclay and Kellock - who returns as captain after holding the role throughout the Six Nations campaign - are near certainties to travel to New Zealand as four of the most accomplished and experienced members of the squad.
Kellock was the only member of the group involved in the 10-6 win over Ireland, the second-row making a cameo appearance off the bench. Robinson was satisfied with the team's performance against Ireland as he assessed each individual.
He said: "I was pleased with the way the team played, the shape that we had. For us not to concede a try was really pleasing, but to keep playing for 80 minutes as well and for Joe Ansbro to score from first-phase play at the end was really pleasing."
Prior to the warm-up matches and the injury to Hugo Southwell, Robinson said he knew 25 of the players who would be travelling to New Zealand. Presuming the experienced Southwell, who has since been ruled out by a knee injury, was among them, it appears there are six places remaining, with 14 players vying for those spots.
Glasgow duo Ryan Grant and Rob Harley, who are both uncapped, and Ben Cairns are the only members of the 38-man squad who will not be involved in a warm-up Test, assuming there are no injuries between now and Saturday.
All 38 players were available for selection for Saturday's match, with Mike Blair having recovered from an ankle injury to start and fellow scrum-half Chris Cusiter returning on the bench following a calf problem. Euan Murray has been named on the bench following an Achilles problem, with Moray Low starting at tight-head prop in a front row also comprising Scott Lawson and Alasdair Dickinson.
The pack are likely to be put under pressure in a match which will provide a good test for the Romania fixture and the Georgia contest four days later. Robinson added: "They do have the potential to destroy teams with their forward power and I think that is similar to those teams (Romania and Georgia).
"On their day if you're not able to play through the forwards, they will beat you."
Robinson is looking for his forwards to front up against the Azzurri and allow the backs to flourish with good possession. He added: "They have a very good set-piece and the forwards have the potential to be one of the top forward packs in world rugby. Possession at the set-piece is going to be really contested.
"We're going to have to be at our very best to win the ball and supply some ball for us to be able to attack off."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Following the passing of Jack Kyle, Huw Richards pays tribute to arguably the finest player Ireland has produced
"When Mike Burton was sent off I thought the world had gone crazy - just Pommy bashing, hitting anyone." Behind the Rose heads back to 1975
The time for tinkering is over - England must nail their colours to the mast in key positions, writes Phil Vickery
"New Zealand-born Joe Schmidt has forged the Irish into a street-smart, well- prepared side," John Mitchell on the Irish renaissance