Robinson wary of wounded French
Published 19/01/2011 | 15:40
Head coach Andy Robinson is under no illusions as to the size of the task facing Scotland as they prepare to open their RBS 6 Nations Championship campaign against France in Paris.
As if trying to mastermind Scotland's first win in Paris since 1999 is not difficult enough, Robinson, who today named his 34-man training squad for the Six Nations, knows Les Bleus will be determined to bounce back from their 59-16 defeat to Australia in their most recent outing at the Stade de France.
Robinson told Press Association Sport: "We've got to be at our very best to win the game.
"We've got to prepare well and make sure everybody is in the right frame of mind against a very good French side.
"A lot of people suddenly start talking about the French - slow starters, what happened against Australia - but this French side is a good side.
"We know it's going to take a huge ask for us to go and perform there, but we have the quality to go and do that.
"Our focus has got to be on ourselves and what we can deliver in the game."
Scotland have won in Paris just twice in 42 years, the most recent win coming in their first trip to the Stade de France en route to winning the final Five Nations tournament 12 years ago.
But they have won five of their last six games and should enter the Six Nations in confident mood, but Robinson is mindful of the last time his squad had a lengthy break.
After a historic first southern hemisphere Test series win, the 2-0 defeat of Argentina last June, Scotland returned from a five-month break and lost 49-3 to New Zealand last November.
"This first game is always a tough task for any of the teams," added Robinson.
"Whatever your start is it's always a tough ask because you come together having not played in a number of months.
"You've got to find your rhythm, your togetherness in defence and collective will to stop the opposition from scoring, but also you've got to have your systems in place so you can be an attacking threat."
Today Robinson called up Glasgow loosehead prop Jon Welsh, Warriors flanker/lock Rob Harley and Bath back Jack Cuthbert to his training squad.
All three have performed well since the autumn Tests, when Scotland bounced back from the loss to the All Blacks by defeating world champions South Africa and Samoa.
"I've been impressed by Robert Harley since I first saw him play in a pro-team back-up game some seasons back," added Robinson.
"He has performed consistently for Glasgow this season in a position where we have strength and there is considerable competition for a starting place.
"Jon Welsh is another who has benefited from raising his game in the face of intense competition and has a good work ethic.
"Jack Cuthbert has had a really good couple of months having won his place in the Bath first XV."
Rory Lawson, Mike Blair or Alastair Kellock are likely to captain the team in Paris, having all done the job in the last 12 months, but there are some key absentees.
Centre Graeme Morrison is unavailable due to a knee injury sustained playing for Glasgow against Edinburgh on December 27, while Chris Cusiter (Glasgow), Phil Godman (Edinburgh), Alasdair Dickinson and Jim Hamilton (both Gloucester) were also not considered due to injury. Flanker Alasdair Strokosch, meanwhile, is on his way back from injury and may yet come into contention.
Morrison, a bull-dozing inside centre, has been a near-ever present under Robinson, who sees the centre's absence as an opportunity for Alex Grove, Joe Ansbro and Nick de Luca.
"Graeme's been selected for all games bar one," added Robinson.
"What I'm looking for in the player who comes in is to develop a partnership, to really strike up an attacking threat and also to be influential to how we defend."
But there is a major plus, with Glasgow's Johnnie Beattie available again after missing the autumn campaign following shoulder surgery on a long-standing injury.
"It highlights the magnitude of his performances with the injury that he had," added Robinson.
"I've been delighted with his recovery process, the fact he's come back as strong now as when he was playing in Argentina.
"It's now down to him to put on a number of performances, in particular next week in the A game."
Robinson also named an additional 17 players for the A game against the Irish Wolfhounds at Netherdale on January 28.