WITH Jonny Gray missing, Scott Cummings will be calling the line-outs on Saturday, and it can’t be any worse than last time out against England, when Scotland’s touchline woes were a significant contributing factor to their narrow loss.
Fraser Brown has been dropped to the bench this week, but head coach Gregor Townsend stressed at Wednesday’s team announcement that the hooker was not carrying the can for the number of wayward throws at Murrayfield, suggesting that the issue had been with the options taken in treacherous conditions – which is astonishing when you think about it, given the level of preparation that goes into these matches, and the fact that Storm Dennis had been widely forecast.
Aged just 23, and with only 10 caps – five starts – to his name, Cummings might be the baby of the Scottish pack, but he has been marked out as a leader from his earliest days at Glasgow Warriors, and when captaining the Scotland Under-20s side during the 2015-16 season. He clearly revels in the extra responsibility.
“It [calling the line-outs] is something I’ve been doing at Glasgow for years so if I get the opportunity at the weekend then that would be great,” he said, before the team had been confirmed. “I think I called my first pro game at Glasgow when I made my debut. I’ve always loved calling; it’s a part of the game I’ve always enjoyed.
“It was a tough [against England], it wasn’t our best day at the office by any means,” he added. “That’s something we’ve worked on a lot this week and we’ve changed a couple of things, a couple of processes that didn’t work for us. We’re just looking to make sure we’re better prepared this week.
“The weather did come into play [against England], and as a team we knew we could have prepared for that better. We could have done more beforehand to make sure we had a couple more wet weather options.
“It has been about stripping it back and having a bit of pace in the lineout. Also, it’s about backing yourselves and trusting that the processes will be better than the opposition’s [processes]. It’s hard to defend lineouts, but if you do a lot of complex stuff it can become easier [for the opposition] because you get messed up. Backing yourselves and backing the calls is the important thing we have to do this week.”
The weather forecast in Rome this weekend is much more forgiving – 17 degrees with a gentle breeze – which should mean Cummings can explore the full repertoire of the team’s line-out options, and allow the team as a whole can prove that they have not lost their attacking verve in pursuit of a more convincing defence.
“If that is the case it will be great, it will be good for both teams as we are both playing a great style of rugby,” said Cummings. “You could see from how Italy played against France that they love chucking the ball about. They have a new style under their new coach, so they definitely have a new identity and are excited to play. We are probably pretty similar to them.
“We need to get on top at the start. We’re a team who pride ourselves on playing one of the quickest brands of rugby there is, so we want to start fast, and you saw that against Ireland – the first 10 minutes, we played really, really well and got into our shape well. We’ll be looking to do that early on [in Rome].”