Thursday 30 March 2017

Scotland hit by backline crisis

Ireland welcomed Tommy Bowe and Tony Buckley back into their squad yesterday, but Scotland coach Andy Robinson is facing an injury crisis ahead of Sunday's showdown in Murrayfield, writes Hugh Farrelly.

Centre Joe Ansbro and full-backs Hugo Southwell and Rory Lamont have all been ruled out, while six Scottish forwards were unable to train yesterday having picked up knocks over the weekend.

It leaves Robinson with doubts over the availability of prop Jon Welsh, flankers Rob Harley and Ross Rennie, Leinster second/back-row Nathan Hines, No 8 Richie Vernon and hooker Dougie Hall as he seeks to bounce back from the disappointing loss to Wales.

Johnnie Beattie's return gives Robinson the option of reuniting the 'Killer Bs' back-row of Beattie, Kelly Brown and John Barclay that proved so influential in the win over Ireland last season.

"We have made the decision now that all three of our injured backs will miss this weekend's international so that brings clarity to our preparations," said Robinson.

"Everybody was hurting after the display against Wales but we must now focus on the challenge that Ireland bring and there's absolute determination to bounce back against them."

In contrast to Robinson's problems, counterpart Declan Kidney was able to add Bowe and Buckley to his squad among eight additions, although there is still no room for Munster scrum-half Peter Stringer. Gavin Duffy, Andrew Trimble and Denis Hurley were the other backs brought in alongside Bowe, with Mick O'Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Rhys Ruddock and Buckley the four forwards named.

Trimble and Bowe will push hard for inclusion before the team is named tomorrow, while there is also a case for Duffy at full-back given the high ball problems Ireland experienced there in the narrow defeat to France. Stringer's continued omission, along with Leinster's Isaac Boss, means the scrum-half slot is a shoot-out between Tomas O'Leary and Eoin Reddan.

Irish Independent

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