Fitness boost for Scotland
March 9, 2009
Scotland have been given a timely boost ahead of Saturday's Six Nations clash against Ireland with Jim Hamilton, Nathan Hines and Rory Lamont all returning to training.
Hines and Lamont have not featured in the championship and lock Hamilton missed the victory over Italy last time out after suffering a shoulder injury early in the defeat by France. Perpignan lock Hines was in danger of missing the whole campaign after undergoing knee surgery on February 10, while Lamont has not played since suffering ankle ligament damage while playing for Sale on December 5.
Defence coach Graham Steadman is optimistic Hamilton will be fit to face Ireland at Murrayfield and he admits the unexpected presence of the other two at training is a huge bonus. The former Ireland defence coach said, "The fact we have got three quality players back training with the squad has given everyone a lift. The early call on Jim Hamilton is very positive. Nathan, being the experienced pro that he is, will give us an honest call post-session regarding how he has come through it.
"The fact Rory is training with us this week is a boost and it will be interesting to see how far down the track he is in terms of his levels of his fitness. It's massive to have these experienced, quality players available. It certainly gives us food for thought for our selection."
Scotland go into the game as underdogs given Ireland's perfect record in the tournament and Steadman admits they could be punished by Ronan O'Gara if they continue to concede soft penalties. Steadman feels only some poor execution from Wales kicker Stephen Jones and France fly-half Lionel Beauxis saved Scotland from heavier defeats in their opening two matches.
He told STV, "It's a stat I'm not too happy with, the fact we have conceded 38 penalties, compared to their 20. Off the back of that, 22 were kickable offences within range. Thankfully Jones and the French guy Beauxis had a bit of an off-day. We were the better team in France and indiscipline cost us.
"It's something we have certainly got to tighten up on. Although Ronan O'Gara has not been kicking too well in his previous three games, he was the difference two years back at Murrayfield. He kicked everything and Ireland walked away with the Triple Crown. On a good day Ronan O'Gara is a quality player and I would like to think our discipline will tighten up and we won't give him that opportunity."
Steadman knows plenty about O'Gara's team-mates too but he will focus on encouraging Scotland players rather than stopping the Irish as Frank Hadden's team look to build on their 26-6 win over Italy.
"I can give them information on the inside track but the players have got to go out there and execute," Steadman continued. "This week is more about us. We know Ireland are playing with a great deal of confidence and have strike-power throughout their ranks. We have to approach the game with belief off the back of the win last week.
"There are certainly things we can improve on. But to get the win against an Italy team that were out to spoil everything that we were throwing at them, was very pleasing."