Tim Visser is unlikely to play any part in this season’s RBS Six Nations as interim Scotland coach Scott Johnson prepares to unveil his pre-tournament training squad at Murrayfield tomorrow.
The absence of the prolific try-scoring winger as he continues to recover from a broken ankle sustained against Treviso in October was confirmed today by Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons.
Running the rule over potential candidates from the Capital after announcing that youngsters Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Sean Kenney, who both play at scrum half, had signed contract extensions until 2016, the 63-year-old Solomons said: “I don’t see Tim being back playing for us until the end of March.”
However, he added: “It is always the case that an injury situation gives an opportunity to someone else and Dougie Fife has certainly taken his.”
Acknowledging Fife as a legitimate Test contender along with another uncapped Edinburgh stalwart, Roddy Grant, the coach said: “All the Edinburgh players who are regarded as contenders for the latest international squad are certainly at the top of their game just now.”
Flanker Grant has got as close as being a travelling reserve for Scotland and, if Fife scores a try in his next league outing for Edinburgh, it will surpass a record four in-a-row at Rabo Direct level achieved by Visser in 2010. Another touchdown was added at European level in the weekend 27-16 Heineken Cup win over Perpignan to keep hopes of an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final qualification alive and Solomons insisted there was more to Fife than simply attacking flair.
“It is defence that shows how much a side are together – and we are very, very together at the moment.
“Dicko (Alasdair Dickinson), Ross Ford and Grant Gilchrist are all performing of the Scotland internationalists in our pack and Dave Denton was deservedly man-of-the-match against Perpignan. So, I don’t think there would be any problem were Scott Johnson to give them a call.”
Greig Tonks is being heavily touted to come into the squad as a stand off having gained his only cap so far as a full back on tour last summer. The catalyst was a late call after regular No.10 Harry Leonard failed a late fitness test after travelling to Gloucester for a Heineken European Cup tie. Tonks stepped in and Solomons recalled: “We could have asked Greig Laidlaw to move to stand off where he has played before but didn’t think that was the right move.
“I had every confidence asking Tonksy to play there.
“He is a strong lad with previous experience of playing at stand off before he joined Edinburgh; there wasn’t much chance he’d fail.”
Only Laidlaw, Nick De Luca and Matt Scott, of the Edinburgh backs, represented Scotland in the Autumn and the latter is having to be reintroduce carefully after breaking a hand against Japan. That came on top of an ankle knock sustained pre-season and Scott has only made two Edinburgh starts; last weekend he withdrew from the bench at the 11th hour.
“Matt has had an awful lot of injuries but Nick has been consistent in the centre alongside Ben Atiga who has done exceptionally well considering he has had knee problems,” said Solomons. As for the rejuvenated Tom Brown, a try scorer against Perpignan and fit again after missing the first ten weeks of the season, Solomons said: “The great thing about Tom is that he is very brave.”
Soon the coach will start planning for a series of matches without the Six Nations contingent and, on the evidence of 40 minutes at full back against Perpignan, recent South African arrival Carl Bezuidenhout looks a strong contender to deputise for Tonks.
However, wasn’t Solomons frustrated by the player’s decision to end the game with Perpignan last weekend by kicking for touch in the final play instead of launching a counter-attack in the hope of a fourth try bonus point – especially with Perpignan requiring two scores?
Defending that decision, Solomons said: “Right after the game Greig Tonks said it was the correct decision by Carl because he was on his own with nobody to pass to. Our entire dressing-room agreed.
“He could have tried to open out but Perpignan had three men up and there was a risk they could have turned the ball over, scored another try and got a (losing bonus) point from what was a very, very good performance by Edinburgh.”
Scotland open their campaign in Dublin and according to Solomons, an ex-Ulster coach, assignments don’t come much tougher. “I really don’t think Ireland will be affected by losing in the final play to New Zealand last time out. They will take heart from the way they played overall and, of course, they will want to give Brian O’Driscoll a great send off at the end of his career with some outstanding performances.
“Having England come to Murrayfield next up is very hard and I don’t accept that prospects are better in the year that this game, and also France, are here.
“After all there are three away games coming up and one of these is in Italy who are proving very difficult to beat in Rome.
“However, Scotland did reasonably well in the Autumn and the Edinburgh players will be ready, whoever is chosen.”