Scott Lawson Column: “It's time for other players to step up”

In the first of his exclusive Six Nations columns for Talking Rugby Union, former Scotland hooker Scott Lawson looks ahead to the Ireland v Scotland opener on Saturday.

I remember fondly our win in Ireland back in 2010.

We had lost our first three games of that year’s Six Nations, drawn with England and then the trip to Ireland was the last match played at Croke Park.

It was an amazing stadium, a great venue and I think we put in one of our best performances and a lot of things just clicked that day.

We won 23-20 and Johnnie Beattie scored an amazing try and Dan Parks was on form with the boot. I came off the bench for the last 10 or 15 minutes and I just remember looking up from a scrum in the 80th minute to see the ball sailing into the stand and the celebrations beginning.

Ten years on and despite not being a player anymore, I still get a buzz ahead of the Six Nations and I think the Scotland guys who are out in Spain before they head to Dublin on Thursday will be getting excited about Saturday.

The Finn Russell incident is far from ideal, everyone wants the best players available, but I feel that Gregor Townsend has dealt with it in the right manner and because it happened right at the start of the camp for the tournament [last Sunday/Monday] I think enough time has passed now for the guys left in the squad to be fully focused on the Ireland match and not think about that situation.

The head coach has set his stall out, backed his squad ahead of an individual and with the guys being in Spain this week, they will just be diligently preparing for what Ireland will have to throw at them.

There will be more to come from the Finn situation, but that has to be parked for now as there is a Test match to win come Saturday.

Ireland have got a new coaching set-up, they didn’t have a great World Cup and some guys in their squad will be feeling the pressure.

They are also missing the retired legend that is Rory Best, so it will be interesting to see how they go without him, but Scotland are missing some key men too.

Obviously Greig Laidlaw, John Barclay and Tommy Seymour have retired and Finn and the injured Darcy Graham are missing, so now it is time for other players to step up for Scotland.

I think Adam Hastings is more than capable of doing a job at 10 at this level while, as a forward myself, I am looking forward to seeing how a number of guys go.

Zander Fagerson has added a real aggression and a carrying game to his armoury and I think he might get the nod to start the game at tighthead while although Scott Cummings has been in excellent form, I would go with the experience of Jonny Gray and Grant Gilchrist in the second-row for this game.

With John [Barclay] not around anymore and Sam Skinner still coming back from injury, this is also a big opportunity for the back-row of Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury to show what they can do as a unit, they have such potential.

In the backline, it will be interesting to see which centre combination Gregor goes for, but I think Rory Hutchinson has to be involved. He has been flying for Northampton, has bounced back from missing out on the World Cup and has a good kicking game which can mix things up.

If Scotland play to their potential on Saturday they can win, it is going to be fascinating. Both squads are in a new phase and I think the team that can get their big ball carriers into the game and then play with more clarity when the ball goes wide, will come out on top.

Scott was talking to TRU's Gary Heatly

Scott Lawson is now Director of Rugby at the University of St Andrews. Between 2005 and 2018 he earned 47 Scotland caps and played in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups.

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