The Scotland team to play Ireland on Sunday looks a lot different. With no Euan Murray, Moray Low starts at tighthead. Richie Gray replaces Nathan Hines at lock, while with Vernon replaced by Johnnie Beattie, the Killer Bs are back in town. The halfbacks are replaced as a unit by Mike Blair and Ruaridh Jackson, who is getting his first start for Scotland. Walker and Evans stay on the wings, while De Luca moves out to 13 and Sean Lamont slips into the 12 slot. The old warhorse Paterson, getting his 102nd cap. On the bench, Cross and Danielli are involved in the 22 for the first time this season. Hines, Vernon, Lawson and Parks appear to be carrying the can for the poor performance against Wales, all having to warm the bench.
On the face of it, this doesn't look a strong team, and they do need to be strong, because Ireland are not a bad side this year. However, there is no doubt that there are game breakers in this side. If Johnnie Beattie can recreate something like his best form, he can be awesome. Gray, so long castigated as a disciplinary liability, had a scorcher of a game against France, with some arguing that he should have been Man of the Match. Moray Low is likely to be rock solid, Jacobsen equally so. Of the forwards left from the Wales game, both Ford and Kellock will feel they have something to prove and both are capable of doing just that.
Mike Blair has bags of experience, but hasn't recently reached the giddy heights of a couple of season ago. Jackson is probably the unknown quantity. He's certainly got talent. Let's hope it surfaces on Sunday. Max Evans would probably be the first to admit that he hasn't sparkled so far, but he still has the ability to make surprising things happen. Lamont has been the standout among the backs so far, especially surprising since he's started twice from the bench. In the aftermath of the Wales match, he was particularly scathing of his team mates, which prompts me to think he's not likely to be short of motivation for the game. De Luca is my worry. He really hasn't looked sharp so far, in fact he's looked pretty ordinary. At the back, Paterson will more than likely give a solid performance and has an accurate kicking game, so there are probably not too many worries on that score.
As for the bench, one would hope that being moved to the touchline is all the motivation the dropped players will need. Lawson and Parks will be champing at the bit. Blair and Jackson will be only too aware of that. That won't hurt. I'm looking forward to this game, but then I always do. I am never disappointed in advance. That won't change, but I really need a win. I hope the team feel my pain.