Scotland’s next rugby opponents USA will be using the meeting in Houston on June 7 as a benchmark for a World Cup pool clash between the countries next year.
And Nigel Melville, the former England scrum half and US Rugby chief executive, today told the Evening News that a 20,000 home support in a BBVA Compass Stadium that is rapidly becoming an established base, would make life uncomfortable for the visitors during new coach Vern Cotter’s first game in charge.
“We have hosted Italy and Ireland annually at this wonderful venue and we will have a passionate 20,000 crowd,” said Melville, adding: “Rugby is growing in the US; there was a time when we would rely on the away team to provide the crowd and, although I am sure there will be a strong Scottish contingent, this will be an American event with all the razzmatazz of an American sporting occasion.
“Having Tier One games are critical to our development and so we are delighted that Scotland agreed to visit and help us with our RWC preparations.
“We also get a chance to measure ourselves up against our fellow pool opponents.”
Clearly a bit more than bragging rights will be at stake while a recent announcement that the All Blacks would visit the USA for the first time since 1980 to undertake a Test against the Eagles in Chicago this November has also provided impetus.
Scotland may have won all three previous instalments of the fixture but never before have they gone into action on a back of a hammering quite like the 51-3 rout inflicted by Wales last time out.
According to ex-Scotland and Lions hooker Kenny Milne, no time must be wasted in putting the horror of Cardiff behind them to take advantage of the clean slate provided by new coach Vern Cotter in his first match in charge. With Scotland naming a “double” squad of 43 players, nine of whom will figure in the first half schedule which also includes Canada before the trips to Argentina and South Africa on subsequent weekends, Milne says restoring respectability is first priority.
“It is important momentum is built up to the World Cup and in this era that, in fact, is what you are judged against.
“Of course, it is important not to take your eye off the ball where competitions like the Six Nations are concerned but I’m sure the World Cup is what is governing Vern Cotter’s thinking coming into the job.”
In stressing the World Cup’s proximity, Herioter Milne has actually echoed remarks by Cotter who talks of a “16 match build up” to England 2015 getting underway. The coach has also made it clear that players could still be added and one of the bigger omissions would appear to be Edinburgh flanker Roddy Grant. The fans’ player of the season acknowledged his disappointment on social media, stating: “Gutted to be missing out again but after having had a good season I’m raring to go again for next season.”
Scotland squad for the Test matches v USA and Canada
Forwards: Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Kevin Bryce (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan, Geoff Cross (both London Irish), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Montpellier), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Kieran Low (London Irish), Moray Low (Exeter Chiefs), Pat MacArthur, Gordon Reid (both Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Kyle Traynor (Bristol Rugby).
Backs: Chris Cusiter (Sale Sharks), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Max Evans (Castres), Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell (all Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby).
Scotland squad for Test matches v Argentina and South Africa
Forwards: Kevin Bryce (Glasgow Warriors), Geoff Cross (London Irish), David Denton, Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (all Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, (both Glasgow Warriors), Moray Low (Exeter Chiefs), Pat MacArthur, Gordon Reid (both Glasgow Warriors), Tim Swinson, Jon Welsh (both Glasgow Warriors).
Backs: Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Dougie Fife, Grayson Hart (both Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne (both Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (London Wasps), Sean Maitland, Peter Murchie, Henry Pyrgos, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Weir (all Glasgow Warriors).