No summer holiday for Scots tourists

By Jim MasonBBC Scotland rugby reporter
Australia have a good record against Scotland
Australia have a good record against Scotland

Scotland's tour to Australia, Fiji and Samoa sounds like a nice, easy way to end the season. That impression lasts only as long as it takes to study the International Rugby Board world rankings.

They make for sobering reading for any Scots fan. Australia are currently second in the world, Samoa 10th, while Fiji are the only team below Scotland's 12th, in 16th position.

Scotland wins in the Southern Hemisphere against the upcoming opposition are also rare. Their only win against the Wallabies on Australian soil came in 1982 at Brisbane, where the Scots won 12-7.

The Scots beat Samoa in 2004, but that game was played in Wellington. In 1993, the Scots travelled to Apia, where the June game is to be played, and went down 28-11.

The record against Fiji is equally unimpressive. In the only capped international between the teams in Fiji, the hosts won by an impressive 51-26.

The tour comes after a less than inspiring international season in which Scotland failed to qualify for the latter stages of the Rugby World Cup and failed to secure a win in the Six Nations championship. Indeed, the only bright spot in a dismal nine months has been the pro-teams participation in the latter stages of the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect Pro12.

Scotland have high hopes for Dutch-born winger Visser
Scotland have high hopes for Dutch-born winger Visser

Before the squad for this tour was announced, Scotland head coach Andy Robinson had to deal with even more bad news. Out went Gloucester lock Jim Hamilton, suspended for seven weeks for fighting. Out through injury, two rising stars of the Scottish game - Edinburgh's Lee Jones and David Denton - while winger Simon Danielli announced his retirement from the game. Saracen's Kelly Brown is also sidelined through injury.

With those omissions comes opportunity. Andy Robinson has included five uncapped players in his 28-strong squad.

Glasgow Warriors forwards Ryan Grant, Robert Harley and Tom Ryder are all included, as is Edinburgh back Tom Brown. The real headline maker, though, is Edinburgh's Tim Visser. The Dutch-born winger will qualify for Scotland through residency on the 12 June, thus making him available for selection for the Tests against Fiji and Samoa.

There has been much complaint about the lack of finishing in Scotland's games of late; Visser, who was recently named the league's player's player of the year, is expected to add some offensive bite. The 24-year-old has also been the top try scorer in the Pro12 for the last three seasons.

While Scotland's fans count down to the appearance of Visser in a Scotland shirt, one player who's already made the grade at international level is Glasgow's Stuart Hogg. Hogg picked up the league's young player of the year award and, with his inclusion and that of Edinburgh's Tom Brown, Max Evans of Castres and Sean Lamont of Scarlets, Scotland could field a back three with pace, promise and a deal of creativity.

Elsewhere in the backs, there are no places for the Glasgow pairing of Graeme Morrison and Ruaridh Jackson. Morrison is a player who relishes the more physical side of the game, is an experienced hand and his size and presence may be missed in the Scotland midfield.

London Irish's Joe Ansbro returns after missing out on the whole of the Six Nations, while Greig Laidlaw and his capital team-mate, Mike Blair, will occupy half-back berths. Theirs is a partnership that has shown glimmers of promise. The Scotland coaching team will be hoping that that promise is converted into match-winning performances.

In the pack, Ross Ford will assume the mantle of tour captain, but there's no place for Allan 'Chunk' Jacobsen. The Edinburgh forward has played a lot of rugby this season and has been rested. On the other side of the front row, Euan Murray has made the tour and can feature in all three games, none of which are scheduled for a Sunday - the highly religious player refuses to play on the Sabbath.

Richie Gray and Al Kellock are selected at lock and, as usual, Scotland would seem to have a few options in the back row with the likes of Alasdair Strokosch, Ross Rennie, John Barclay and Robert Harley in the fold.

The tour begins on 5 June against Australia in Newcastle. The Scots then travel to play Fiji in Lautoka on the 16 June. Their last match is in Apia against Samoa on the 23 June.