Scott Johnson eyes Edinburgh’s Dougie Fife for a debut cap

Edinburgh's Dougie Fife. Pic: Ian Rutherford
Edinburgh's Dougie Fife. Pic: Ian Rutherford
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Interim Scotland coach Scott Johnson today insisted he “would not bat an eyelid” about introducing Edinburgh wing Dougie Fife for his first cap against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

An opening has occurred through Sean Lamont being injured and, with Tommy Seymour and Max Evans also carrying knocks, the coach has listed an enlarged pool of 13 backs including Fife and his Capital colleague, Jack Cuthbert.

Up front there is only one enforced change with Ryan Wilson promoted to take the place of the injured Johnnie Beattie. Al Strokosch comes on to the bench.

“I would not bat an eyelid if I had to bring in Dougie Fife,” said Johnson. “It would be part of the development of this team and what we need to do as a country.

“Both these players (Cuthbert and Fife) have been showing glimpses of good regional form; get out there and do it.”

Eyebrows will certainly be raised at the inclusion of former breakaway forward Richie Vernon so soon after being converted to centre.

While hinting that the move is primarily to integrate Vernon to the Test squad, a typically upbeat Johnson said: “Richie Vernon is a work in progress but he has surprised a few people. The work is further down the track than people anticipated. We wanted to have a look at him.

“He is a bit further down the track than people think. He might come on the radar soon.”

Johnson shrugged aside his past background as a Wales coach but admitted: “The Millennium Stadium has been a great part of my life and (being in) Wales changed my life. I owe Wales a lot.

“I met my wife there; I changed from a bohemian existence to not such a bohemian existence!”

The stadium roof will be closed on Saturday at the request of visitors Scotland and Johnson feels indoor conditions could help the team express themselves better.

“If you exclude the England game where we got no set-piece to play off, we have shown glimpses of some good skill set, really good intent.

“Have we completed our skill set the way we want to? No. Can we do better? too right. We are not running away from our intent to play rugby.

“(But) we have to look at the penalty count. From my point of view frustration lies in the inconsistency of law. That point has been made (to the authorities),” said Johnson.

Also back in favour is Lee Jones, capped four times in 2012 but recently released to the sevens squad.

Earlier this year winger Jones was transferred from Edinburgh to Glasgow and marked his arrival with brilliant individual try against Cardiff.

Backs from: Cusiter (Glasgow), Cuthbert (Edinburgh), Dunbar (Glasgow), Evans (Castres), Fife (Edinburgh), Hogg (Glasgow), Jackson (Glasgow), Jones (Glasgow), Laidlaw ((Edinburgh), Scott (Edinburgh), Taylor (Saracens), Vernon (Glasgow), Weir (Glasgow).

Forwards: Grant (Glasgow), Lawson (Newcastle), Cross (Edinburgh), R Gray (Castres), Hamilton (Montpellier), Wilson (Glasgow), Brown (Saracens), Denton (Edinburgh).

Subs: Ford (Edinburgh), Dickinson (Edinburgh), Murray (Worcester), Swinson (Glasgow), Strokosch (Perpignan).

Not considered through injury: De Luca (Edinburgh).