Scotland include Gray for Kiwi clash
November 6, 2012
Kelly Brown will skipper Scotland © PA Photos
Scotland have named Richie Gray in their starting line-up for their match with the All Blacks on Sunday despite concerns over the lock's fitness.
Gray's inclusion is subject to a fitness test later in the week with Alastair Kellock poised to step in if the Sale lock fails to recover from an ankle injury. In total, the team sees five changes from the one that beat Samoa in the final match of their three-Test series in June.
Centre Joe Ansbro and scrum-half Chris Cusiter are both out injured, number eight Richie Vernon did not make the initial squad, tight-head prop Euan Murray is not available as the All Blacks clash falls on a Sunday and Kellock is dropped to the bench.
Jim Hamilton - who missed the summer tour due to suspension - therefore comes in for Kellock while Kelly Brown, the new captain, starts at No.8 in what will be his 50th appearance for the national side. Geoff Cross is a like-for-like replacement for Murray in the front-row while Mike Blair starts at scrum-half in place of Cusiter. And in the centres, Nick de Luca replaces the injured Ansbro.
Edinburgh flyer Tim Visser will make his first start on home soil while Glasgow Warriors' scrum-half Henry Pyrgos could make his debut for the national side if he gets his opportunity from the bench.
Sunday's match will be the first of three Tests for Scotland in November with South Africa visiting Murrayfield on the 17th and Tonga completing their line-up with a match on the 24th. History is not on Scotland's side going into Sunday's clash as they have never beaten the All Blacks but coach Andy Robinson has called on his team to continue the same run of form that saw them return from the southern hemisphere in June with three wins from three to their name.
"For our first game of the season we will really need to start well and keep the game simple," Robinson said. "New Zealand are the world champions and they perform the basic skills, well, under the highest pressure.
"We need to step up from the summer tour and be ready to go toe to toe in a physical contest, just as Australia did most recently against New Zealand in Brisbane.
"Congratulations to Kelly Brown who will captain Scotland for the first time and will join distinguished company in winning his 50th cap."
Stuart Hogg, Sean Lamont, Nick de Luca, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair, Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Alasdair Strokosch, Ross Rennie, Kelly Brown (captain)
Replacements: Scott Lawson, Allen Jacobsen, Kyle Traynor, Alastair Kellock, Dave Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Max Evans
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
In the wake of another perfect November series, Monday Maul talks to NZRU CEO Steve Tew about the constant demand for perfection