Thursday, March 4, 2010

Six Nations 2010: Scotland coach Andy Robinson rings the changes for Cardiff

It is a little early in the RBS Six Nations championship for a last throw of the dice, but Scotland coach Andy Robinson certainly took some radical steps when he chose his team to take on Wales in the Millennium Stadium this weekend.

Robinson came to Scotland with a reputation as a great coach but a poor selector. If his players can put last weekend's 18-9 defeat by France behind them with an inspired performance in Cardiff then that simplistic caricature will have to be redrawn. If not, it will only be reinforced.

The selection of Euan Murray, the devoutly Christian tighthead prop who ruled himself out of last Sunday's match on religious grounds, was probably the only change that most followers of Scottish rugby would have foreseen.

As well as which, on Robinson's advice, Parks has lately been working on getting the players around him moving with ball in hand – a shift of emphasis that has been obvious in the victories that have taken Glasgow to the top of the Magners League.

"We have to balance up the way we play," Robinson explained. "We've got to be able to play with the ball in hand, but understand the territorial game and get the balance right within that. At the weekend we played far too much rugby in our own half but most importantly we turned ball over inside our own half and we can't afford to do that against quality opposition.

"We didn't build pressure on France when we did get into their territory. When we did kick well we let them out of their half too easily, through their driving play, the box-kicks and their scrum dominance. Whenever we had possession inside our own half we were fighting and scrapping to keep it."

As Parks is set to join Cardiff Blues at the end of this season, he might have highlighted this weekend as a good one for a house-hunting expedition, but he was never going to turn down Robinson's invitation.

He said: "I wouldn't say I was surprised, but I was obviously delighted to get the news this morning. I'm just happy and looking forward to the challenge on Saturday."

Toulon's Rory Lamont, who was ruled out of last week's selection by a niggling ankle injury, returns to the side on the left wing, taking the place of his brother Sean.

Sean, in turn, moves into the midfield, ousting Max Evans from the outside centre berth. Robinson explained that he wanted Sean's power as a line-breaker in a position where he might see more of the ball, although Sean's low opinion of his own distribution skills suggests that his wingers will be seeing much less of the thing.

Scotland's scrum creaked badly against France, and loosehead prop Alasdair Dickinson might consider himself lucky to keep his place as many of the side's problems seemed to have their origins on his side of the set-piece. Moray Low, in turn, might feel a little aggrieved to lose his place to Murray, although he took his leave of the side with some appreciative words from Robinson ringing in his ears.

Scotland V England Hospitality

Six Nations Hospitality

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