Who will fill Blair's boots?
Thu, 10 Jan 2013 07:12
When you lose a bloke with 80-odd caps, it is not easy to replace him
Scotland coach Scott Johnson has still to decide who will be called up to replace Mike Blair following the record-breaking scrumhalf's Test retirement.
Australian Johnson was promoted from within the Scotland set-up after former head coach Andy Robinson resigned following the humiliating 21-15 loss to Tonga in Aberdeen in November.
Monday saw the 85-times capped Blair, now with French club Brive, announce his Test retirement as he posed another problem for Johnson ahead of Scotland's Six Nations opener against England at Twickenham - a ground where they haven't won since 1983 - on February 2.
"When you lose a bloke with 80-odd caps, it is not easy to replace him," said Johnson, once caretaker coach of Wales, on Wednesday.
"But if Mike thought it was the right decision to retire, it was the right decision.
"It causes us a bit of grief but the reality is that we have to move on now. We have to find out who that next player is for the number nine jersey."
Blair is Scotland's most-capped scrumhalf and there appear to be three contenders vying for the No.9 shirt in his absence in Glasgow pair Chris Cusiter and Henry Pyrgos with Edinburgh's Greig Laidlaw, usually an flyhalf, also in contention for the role.
Cusiter, however, is still recovering from a shoulder injury while Pyrgos has just three caps behind him.
"There has been some good signs from the boys ready to come in, and who's to say that the next guy won't become the most special nine that Scotland has ever produced," Johnson said.
"I'm a big believer in working on the positives in life rather than the negatives and I'm very thankful that I got the chance to work with Mike.
"He was a wonderful rugby player, a great bloke and a great leader. He's now gone. It won't be easy, but it's up to us to replace him.
"Greig will be there or there abouts but there are others too. We are waiting on the injury update on 'Cus' and we will see how Henry Pyrgos is and the form of others as well. We will go with what we have got. That is all we can do."
Johnson added that a decision on his long-term future would have to wait until after the end of the Six Nations in March.
"How long will I be here? Well that's two-fold. It's not just my wish, it comes down to those of others.
"I suppose it is as long as they want me. It's pretty simple.
"I came here to do a certain job and that is still my mandate. But the circumstances have changed and I have agreed to do a different job until a certain time.
"However, my other job still exists and I will re-evaluate my situation with the board at a later date."
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