Captain Greig Laidlaw believes Scotland now have the strength in depth that will allow them to cope with Matt Scott’s enforced lay-off.
Edinburgh centre Scott has been ruled out for the rest of this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship with an elbow injury. The 25-year-old may even require surgery after damaging ligaments during his club side’s Guinness PRO12 clash with Connacht last Friday.
It is yet another setback for Scott, who started the Championship opener to England before a thigh injury ruled him out of the subsequent clashes with Wales and Italy, and a major headache for head coach Vern Cotter as he prepares for Sunday’s game with France.
But Laidlaw is confident the Scots have enough alternatives to thrive in 34-cap Scott’s absence.
Mark Bennett and Duncan Taylor forged the midfield partnership when Scotland finally ended their nine-game Six Nations losing streak by beating the Azzurri 36-20 in Rome last month, while Cotter also has Peter Horne and Glasgow’s Alex Dunbar as options.
Laidlaw – who will hook up with his former Edinburgh team-mate when Scott joins Gloucester this summer – said: “It’s a big blow. Unfortunately for Matty, he’s picked up a number of injuries in recent times. It’s unfortunate for us as a squad too because he’s good player. We’ve always said, if Scotland are going to pick up wins we need competition for places. But we’re fortunate right now that Alex Dunbar is coming back to fitness. We’re starting to get a bit of depth in the centres which we haven’t had in recent times.”
It is not just the centres where Scotland are well stocked, though. Cotter has plenty of options in the back three and speculation has risen that veteran wing Sean Lamont may be approaching the end of his international career. The 35-year-old, Scotland’s second most capped player – behind Chris Paterson – with 103 appearances, knows the chatter will not stop until he hangs up his boots but he has no intention of treating Sunday’s clash with Les Bleus as his Murrayfield farewell.
“I was having this conversation with the missus,” said the Glasgow back. “She said it could be my last game at Murrayfield but I said, ‘no it’s not’.
“However, I suppose it could be – you could say that for any player with the threat of injury and non-selection hanging over you. It’s a cliche but I just play every game as if it’s my last. I’ll keep going. I’ve always said that. I’ll become surplus to requirements rather than retire.”