2012 Six Nations Rugby: Robinson Has Key Choices as Scotland Prepare for France

Alex Guy@@AWGuy19Correspondent IFebruary 21, 2012

Ruaridh Jackson's return could provide boost for Scotland
Ruaridh Jackson's return could provide boost for ScotlandStu Forster/Getty Images

France's head coach Phillipe Saint-Andre announced his first XV today for this weekend's match at Murraryfield and, as expected, made no changes to the side that trounced Italy in its opening Six Nations contest.

Now that Saint-Andre has officially revealed his hand, Scotland boss Andy Robinson has a few decisions to make that could directly influence the outcome of the match.

Did Greig Laidlaw's performance in Cardiff earn him another start the the Number 10? Should Mike Blair start at scrum-half? And what about Ruaridh Jackson's return from injury?

When Robinson releases his lineup tomorrow, his choices could also reveal what kind of rugby his team will play.

With Max Evans nursing an ankle injury, it is assumed that Galsgow-phenom Stuart Hogg will earn his first Test start. Hogg injected a burst of energy into the Scottish attack against Wales and was denied a debut try by a wrongful knock-on call.

With Hogg at full-back, it is hoped that Lee Jones and Rory Lamont will provide the pace on the wings that can destabilize the French defence.

Neil McIlroy, coach of Clermont Auvergne in the French Top 14 and native of Scotland, spoke to The Scotsman yesterday and identified speed as the key to a Scottish upset

"The Scots' three-quarters work hard individually but as a unit the French will look the take them on," he said. "The key will be how Scotland rise to that challenge against players like Wesley Fofana."

McIlroy also stressed the importance of Greig Laidlaw to the Scottish game plan. Having played with Laidlaw's father and uncle professionally with Jed-Forrest, McIlroy intimately understands Laidlaw's strengths.

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 12:  Scotland player Stuart Hogg looks dejectedly after the try is not given after after a knock during the RBS Six Nations game between Wales and Scotland at the  Millennium Stadium on February 12, 2012 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Phot
Stu Forster/Getty Images

"If Scotland can get quick ball, I'd back Greig to use it wisely," the former Scottish pro said. 

Laidlaw certainly holds the advantage over Scotland's World Cup Number 10, Ruaridh Jackson, for the moment after his courageous try and overall solid play at the Millennium Stadium, but in his first two matches with Glasgow Warriors after his hamstring injury, the 24-year-old has shown flashes of his former self.

Robinson will need to decide between Duncan Weir and Jackson as Laidlaw's potential understudy.

Geoff Cross will again replace Euan Murray as tight head prop as the latter does not play on Sundays due to religious belief.

Ed Kalman, who earned his first cap against Wales, has been rehabbing a sore neck since the defeat two weeks ago and appears ready to provide depth for either prop. 

Whichever side Robinson chooses to send out on Sunday, his team will be supported by a sell-out crowd at Murrayfield. Still, the French have enjoyed recent success in the Scottish home stadium, winning 18-9 in their 2010 Six Nations matchup.

Scotland failed to score a try in that contest. With 67,000 behind them, it will be on the players's shoulders to produce the tries it will take to knock off a talented and experienced French side.