Scotland rugby head coach Scott Johnson has come out in agreement with Edinburgh counterpart Alan Solomons who says the national team pick from a pool where there is “not much depth.”
The timing of remarks by Solomons, who also told an Afrikaans newspaper that the Springboks could afford to rest players for Sunday’s viagogo Autumn Test at Murrayfield and still win, may be particularly open to question.
However, Johnson was inclined to view them as vindication of his policy of “resting” seemingly top players, including his latest captain, for full blown internationals including against the world No. 2.
“What we are trying to do is get close to depth,” said Johnson, who, as director of rugby, is also Solomons’ boss at centrally-run Edinburgh.
Johnson added: “What he (Solomons) is trying to say is we don’t have the depth of South Africa and we’d be foolish not to acknowledge they have wonderful depth and a population that plays rugby. We are trying to do that. That’s what we have done with the squad.
“We have a couple of injuries in the back division and four or five of our top players out. But this is a great opportunity for others.
“I can’t compare what others say; all I know is I want a competitive squad for Scotland.”
Six changes from a team which won the opening Autumn Test comfortably is certainly a departure from the norm, but at least one – Duncan Taylor for Matt Scott at centre – was enforced by injury.
How difficult will it be for Taylor to strike up a rapport with Nick De Luca whom he has never played alongside?
Johnson was typically upbeat: “It’s not a perfect start for their careers together but it has to start somewhere. Duncan has a basic skill set we like. A big physical kid, he can play several positions. Let’s have a look on Sunday at how that stands up under pressure. I didn’t look at them as a pairing (and) it’s been forced but sometimes that’s the way it happens for the good, we are going to find out.”
The decision to reinstate Greig Laidlaw as captain was inevitable once it was decided to omit Kelly Brown.
“Greig is a competative kid which I like; he’s a bright kid.
“Let’s be fair, he is not the biggest or the quickest – but he knows how to play footy. That tells you he has a positive mind. It’s a good opportunity for Greig who did well in the summer when he had to do it (captaincy). There’s much to like about the lad.”
Regarding the selection shake-up, many pundits were calling for a different back row blend after the 42-17 victory over Japan, while fans are noting that it is difficult to get depth when so many non-Scots are filling places at Alan Solomons’ Edinburgh.