Scott Johnson has finally seemed to have come around to perceived wisdom and has reinstated Kelly Brown to his starting XV, and returned the captaincy to him.
Brown started Scotlandâ€™s first game of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations against Ireland, before being dropped from the squad entirely for the defeat to England and victory over Italy.
It is a touch unfortunate for Chris Fusaro though, he is now jettisoned from the 23 man squad like Brown before him. That is not to say that Johnson has made the wrong decision though, no, the call for Brown to return has been loud and clear from all quarters â€“ with good reason, he has been needed.
What is odd is that having finally seemed to pull together his best back row combination, Brown, Johnnie Beattie, and David Denton, Johnson has still seen it necessary to include Ryan Wilson on the bench.
That is meant as no slur to Wilson, however given thatÂ Brown, Beattie, and Denton are all at their most comfortable at either number eight or blindside flanker, though Brown does an excellent job at 7, what exactly is the point of having another 6/8 on the bench in the form of Wilson?
Surely an openside on the bench would give Johnson greater options as a coach, not least if Scotland are being beaten on the floor â€“ surely a 7 on the bench would be more useful than what would essentially be a like for like replacement in the back row.
It is not as if he is short of options there either. Scotland have top notch 7s at their disposal in the form of John Barclay, Ross Rennie, the dropped Fusaro, even Edinburghâ€™s Roddy Grant.
Reading between the lines of Johnsonâ€™s quotes when revealing his side, always a dangerous game admittedly, it seems that Johnson is expecting a physical mauling game, and therefore wants to be able to replace physicality with yet more physicality:
“I think Saturday is a game that will really suit Kelly. Unlike other sides in the competition, France play above the ground a bit and there will be a lot of mauling. I think the pitch suits Kelly too and I’ve picked a side that can win the game and that’s most important.”
That is all well and good, but given that Johnson already has the fit again Euan Murray on the bench as well as Ross Ford, Tim Swinson, and Duncan Taylor, surely a lack of physicality should not bother him â€“ a bench is supposed to be about having options and the ability to alter what you are doing to suit the way the game is going.
There is no doubt that bringing Brown back is the right call, a thousand articles before this one have called for it, and rightly so. It is the bench selection that makes little sense.
Elsewhere things look quite sensible, the backline and replacement backs are unchanged from the side that beat Italy, while the only other change in the forwards aside from Denton and Brown returning is Geoff Crossâ€™ promotion to the starting tighthead shirt after he steadied the ship against Italy, with Johnson saying:
“Geoff did really well when he came on against Italy and it’s right that he should start this week.â€
Moray Low pays the price for allowing the ship to need steadying though, he drops out of the 23 to make way for fit again Euan Murray on the bench.
Perhaps this blog is a touch unfair on Scott Johnson, after all he has got twenty-two out of twenty-three of the selections right in our view, and has made the one crucial selection that everyone was desperate for â€“ the return of Brown.
What do you think of Scott Johnsonâ€™s selection policy? Should he have a different type of player on the bench rather than a like for like back row replacement? We would love to hear your thoughts on @FifteenRugbyXV or through the comment box below.
By Angus Savage
Scotland XV v France:
15 Stuart Hogg,Â 14 Tommy Seymour,Â 13 Alex Dunbar,Â 12 Matt Scott,Â 11 Sean Lamont,Â 10 Duncan Weir,Â 9 Greig Laidlaw;Â 1 Ryan Grant,Â 2 Scott Lawson,Â 3 Geoff Cross,Â 4 Richie Gray,Â 5 Jim Hamilton,Â 6 Johnnie Beattie,Â 7 Kelly Brown (captain),Â 8 David Denton.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford,Â 17 Alasdair Dickinson,Â 18 Euan Murray,Â 19 Tim Swinson,Â 20 Ryan Wilson,Â 21 Chris Cusiter,Â 22 Duncan Taylor,Â 23 Max Evans.
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