Better news for Scotland on injury front

John Barclay is set to be named as Scotland captainJohn Barclay is set to be named as Scotland captain
John Barclay is set to be named as Scotland captain
After a costly week in which skipper Greig Laidlaw and No.8 Josh Strauss were ruled out of the Six Nations, the injury news emanating from the Scotland camp was more positive today.

A number of other players have been receiving medical attention in the wake of the brutal match in Paris, which ended in a 22-16 defeat by France, but defence coach Matt Taylor said that he expects John Barclay, John Hardie and Fraser Brown to all be fit for Saturday’s home match against Wales, with Ryan Wilson, who missed the French match with an infected elbow, also back in the mix.

Two players picked up knocks playing for their clubs at the weekend, Sean Maitland (ribs) and Mark Bennett (head injury assessment), and while they both sat out training yesterday there is optimism that neither is too serious.

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The news on back-rowers Barclay, Hardie and Wilson comes as a relief following the confirmation on Friday that Strauss, who was superb at the Stade de France, will play no further part in the tournament with a kidney injury.

There was speculation that Dave Denton, who has returned from injury at Bath, may be called in as cover but Taylor confirmed he was not with the squad, which made it unlikely he would be considered for Saturday’s game, though he could be drafted in.

Assuming Barclay is passed fit it is likely he will resume the captaincy he briefly took over from Laidlaw in Paris before he followed the skipper off the field and on to the wounded list.

Jonny Gray became Scotland’s third on-field leader of the afternoon but Barclay should lead the team out against the country where he now plays his club rugby with Scarlets.

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“John probably speaks more than Jonny, although Jonny does speak more than you might expect,” said Taylor.

“Jonny is more of a doing captain. Barclay is a doing captain but he probably talks more. That’s the main difference.”

The defence coach added with a smile: “You probably already know that from Jonny’s media interviews. It’s hard to extract anything from him.”

The loss of Laidlaw means others in the leadership group must step up and Taylor admitted that the ankle ligament damage suffered by the captain and No.1 goalkicker was a severe blow.

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“Oh yeah, listen, it’s not great when our captain is injured. But in rugby that’s just the reality of the game,” he said.

“You can’t be dwelling on who’s injured and who’s not involved. You’ve got to be happy for the guys coming in, working on strengthening them and building them up.

“We can’t go into the game and say: ‘Oh, we haven’t got Greig, we haven’t got Straussy.’ We need to look at the positives.

“We’ve had a few meetings and [head coach] Vern [Cotter] has talked to the leaders. He has developed what we want to get out of the game, how we want to start, how we want to finish.”