Scotland are set to be without first-choice tight-head WP Nel for Saturday’s 6 Nations meeting with champions Ireland in yet another injury blow but should see several experienced men returning to duty.
Nel limped off in the second half of the 33-20 victory over Italy with a calf tear injury and won’t be considered for the second game. Sam Skinner, who turned an ankle after only 10 minutes, has returned to his club Exeter Chiefs and is out at least until the third round game against France in Paris.
Scotland have recalled hooker Fraser Brown to full contact training and he will be available for the Ireland game, while the former Dunfermline prop Murray McCallum has been brought in as cover for Nel.
Assistant coach Mike Blair said that three other men ruled out of Saturday’s selection – Sean Maitland (hamstring), Jonny Gray (shoulder) and Peter Horne (knee) would take part in a full contact session.
Blair predicted Ireland would be gunning for Scotland after their “brutal” opening loss to England.
“I don’t think it’s going to be any different for us because they lost,” he said.
“Ireland are a quality team, one of the top teams in the world and they’re going to look forward to coming and playing us.
“Joe Schmidt is a very intelligent coach along with Andy Farrell and we expect a big showing from them. Not just because they lost that game, it’s something we’d be expecting anyway so we know we need to be right on the top of our game.”
The team had watched the Ireland-England game in the dressing room after their own win, and the coaches watched it again with notebooks later, continued Blair.
“We were really impressed with England,” he said. “They didn’t let Ireland play and put a lot of pressure on them. A lot of line-speed in defence so definitely things we will be able to learn from that game.
“It’s something we look at each week anyway so it’s not anything new – our target is to put teams under pressure and there’s some great examples of England doing that in the game at the weekend.”
For the Scots, the last 10 minutes on Saturday did take some gloss off what was a great performance in the first hour, conceded Blair.
“I think it did,” he said. “We were 33-3 up before 60 minutes so we’re really positive about that, but then that last 15 minutes we had that yellow card and gave up a lot of possession.
“I don’t think fitness had anything to do with it. We’d back ourselves to be fitter than a lot of international teams, and that’s part of the way we play. The yellow-card obviously had an effect – one less man on the pitch and they gained momentum because we struggled with our first-up hits and they gained yards on it.
“There was a little bit of inexperience coming off the bench as well. It hits home that if you don’t get things right, teams will expose you. But we’re aware of that and what our standards need to be in the other games.
“I don’t think you’d point the finger at any individual performances it was just that collective with that (lack of) leadership experience. And we’ve got a few guys coming back into the selection mix now who will certainly help with that.”