Johnson reveals a settled side with just one enforced change
There would have been an extra spring in Scottish steps at training in Murrayfield yesterday, word having already filtered through that an injury-ravaged Irish side were blooding new caps at 10 and 12 in Edinburgh. By comparison, Scotland coach Scott Johnson revealed a settled side featuring just one enforced change following their impressive and morale-boosting win over Italy.
Scotland have already added a few arrows to their quiver under their interim head coach and Dean Ryan, their interim forwards coach. As Les Kiss noted earlier in the week, they sharpened their defensive-line speed considerably against Italy, while Jamie Heaslip yesterday spoke of their heightened threat in the back three and noted how they have upped their try-scoring from counter-attacks.
In naming Geoff Cross at tighthead in place of Euan Murray, who doesn’t play on Sundays due to his Christian beliefs, Scotland may have lost a little at scrum time but gained in the loose. The articulate Johnson was in vintage form regarding Cross especially.
“He’s entertaining, but as my dad always used to say he’s probably so heavenly we’re trying to find his earthly use. I think we’ve found it as a tighthead prop, how’s that?”
On the bench, Dougie Hall retakes his place after he missed their win over Italy due to injury while Jon Welsh also gets a spot with his only appearance for the national side coming in last season’s Six Nations. And his Glasgow team-mate, Alistair Kellock, could win his 50th cap for Scotland if he gets the nod from the bench.
“We have to improve on our last game and that’s been our theme at training all week,” Johnson said. “I make no apology for saying again that we have to step up our work in the contact area. Yes, we’ve some talented athletes in the squad, but we have to give them the opportunities. But we’ve kept changes to a minimum and are saying to the players ‘you’ve won one game. Now go out show us you can win another’.”