Scotland coach Andy Robinson searches for a creative spark

By Jim MasonBBC Scotland rugby reporter
London Irish centre Steven Shingler
Shingler's inclusion has had the Scots and Welsh reaching for the rule book

Andy Robinson's 36-man squad for the 2012 Six Nations Championship contains few surprises - the only real head scratcher being the selection of London Irish centre Steven Shingler.

Shingler was born in Swansea and has appeared for the Welsh Under-20s, but Scotland are keen to have their man. His mother is from Langholm and the player himself is happy to align himself with Andy Robinson's side.

The inclusion of Shingler has caused a spat between the Welsh Rugby Union and their Scottish counterparts.

Without getting bogged down in rugby bureaucracy, Wales want to keep their man, Scotland want Shingler for themselves. Time will tell! (For those interested, look at the International Rugby Board website under laws and regulations. You want regulation eight. Enjoy.)

Shingler can play at centre and at stand-off - and 10 and 12 are two positions that constantly exercise the mind of Scottish rugby fans.

Scrum-half Laidlaw has impressed for Edinburgh this season

The debate about who should play at 10 is a long and interesting one. Opinions on the relative merits of messrs Dan Parks and Ruaridh Jackson can range from the vitriolic to the frankly hysterical. Now Shingler, Duncan Weir and Grieg Laidlaw are added to the mix.

Laidlaw has impressed at Edinburgh this season. He manages a game well and his rugby brain makes up for a perceived lack of pace. I hope he gets his chance.

In the centre, there could be room for more creativity, especially inside. Too often, the 12 has been used as a battering ram rather than a rapier.

Graeme Morrison is a player who will deliver the power game, as can Sean Lamont, but neither player would cite distribution as their main asset. Perhaps one solution would be to move Nick De Luca one in from his usual 13.

The retiral of Chris Paterson from international rugby has also left a gap at full-back. The only specialist 15 in the squad is Glasgow Warriors teenager Stuart Hogg, who has had a great season for the Firhill side. It's likely, however, that club-mate Rory Lamont will occupy that berth come 4 February against England at Murrayfield.

In the forwards, back-row selection will, as always, be interesting. John Barclay remains the standout number seven, but what position will be assigned to Kelly Brown?

Usually at six, he has played at eight, with Alasdair Strokosch coming in at blindside. Add Rob Harley, David Denton, Fraser Mckenzie, Ross Rennie and Richie Vernon to the mix and it all becomes more challenging.

There are six uncapped players in a squad of 36, the majority of whom travelled to the World Cup in New Zealand. There is a lot of potential in the squad.

But, after the disappointment of the World Cup and failure in the last two Six Nations championships (Scotland have won two games out of 10), Robinson's side really need to start picking up victories. Will these players distil into a successful XV?

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