Press Pass: Blair previews Zebre Parma

Press Pass: Blair previews Zebre Parma

Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke with press in the build up to Saturday's BKT URC Round 6 match against Zebre Parma in Italy (22 October, kick-off 1pm BST).

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On Scotland players being available for Zebre

“We’re not 100 per cent sure at the moment. Some guys have gone into the Scotland training camp.

“We’ve got ten managed players within our squad now so they’ve gone away and have [Scotland] training at the start of this week and we’ll find out later in the week about their availability for us.

“We’ll potentially get a few back, but we’re not banking on it.”

On players’ minutes being managed

“There is a skeleton planner. We’ve put a proposal to Stuart Yule [Scotland Head of S&C] and Gregor [Townsend] about when we plan to play the guys and then we look at how many consecutive games they play, how many minutes they play, how many they start, how many are off the bench.

“It’s not a fun part of the job trying to manage all that but I think we’ve done it pretty well so far.

“We’ve tried to get some continuity and cohesion with our selections but also bring guys through so when our internationals are away players aren’t coming through completely devoid of game-time.

“And that’s why we use the Super6 for some guys and opportunities off the bench as well. It’s an interesting job trying to get the planner right but not one of my favourite ones.

“With Duhan [van der Merwe] coming in, he’s another one for the managed group.”

On the difficulties of switching between national and club rugby

“I had different experiences. In 2004-05, with Matt Williams as national coach, I was on the bench for Scotland and I’d come back and play for Edinburgh on those bye weeks.

“It wasn’t something I necessarily overjoyed to be doing because it meant you weren’t going to be starting the following Scotland game. But when you get back into the club environment and you’re back with all your mates again and you pull the Edinburgh jersey, you have that opportunity to show what you can do.

“I’ve had other times when I was captain of Scotland and you wouldn’t play in the bye weeks and you’d almost enjoy the little bit of time off but at the same time when you went to BT Murrayfield to watch the [Edinburgh] guys playing and you’re fully fit but not playing there’s a feeling of awkwardness that you could have been playing.

“I’m sure our players have different opinions on it and some won’t tell me the truth but they’ll enjoy the fact that they’ve got the week off and they can put their feet up. But I’m sure 80-90 per cent of them want to play, pull on the jersey, perform and do well for their mates.”

On Wes Goosen

“He’s fit and available for selection, so we’ve got to make a decision on him.

“It’s how we manage him back into things. He’s had a couple of niggly injuries and we want to make sure that when he comes back he’s firing but he’s looking really good in training.”

On Goosen’s position of choice – wing or centre  

“Wing. He’s got experience playing at 13 as well, so that’s something we’ve got up our sleeve.

“We are a little bit light on centres at the moment. We only carry five and Mark’s away at the moment [with Scotland], so he has potential to play at 13 as well but we seem him predominantly as a wing.”

On Duhan ‘needing another game to get up to speed.’

“This is very much up to Gregor and what he wants him to do. The back three is probably an area for Scotland within the home-based teams where there is potentially a lack of options.

“I’m sure Duhan would benefit from playing another game but he’d also benefit from a training week with Scotland and being ready to go for Australia.”

On Jamie Ritchie’s injury status

“It was in and around his ribs but he’s training with the national guys at the moment and he should be fit to go.”

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