Carson pleased by progress after step up
Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor feels his players will have no excuse for failing to improve on their “horrific” 37-24 defeat by Cartha Queen’s Park when they travel to faced Dundee High School FPs tomorrow.
The Rubislaw men slipped up at home against a Glasgow team second-bottom of National 1, handing them only their second win of the season and dropping Grammar to five defeats in their last six games.
Player availability issues have not helped O’Connor, with seven missing last weekend’s game. Ross Anderson’s wedding accounted for a number of those absentees, with the likes of Robin Cessford and Tom Aplin returning to this week’s squad.
But O’Connor will be without Sean Mills, who went off injured against Cartha, while Murray Mitchell and Matthias Schosser are still on international duty.
They head to Dundee tomorrow for a noon kick-off, with O’Connor demanding a response.
He said: “All the guys who were at the wedding last week are back and we’re almost at full strength. If we don’t put in a performance, we’ve got no excuses.
“The last few weeks it’s been difficult and it was a pretty horrific result last week.
“While the players coming in are good players, it’s continuity and the relationship that you build up. Everyone is playing slightly different positions and the chemistry isn’t there.
“It probably reached its critical mass last Saturday but every team in Scotland faces these challenges.”
Murray Mitchell is representing Scotland in the Rugby League European Championships. The Scots tasted defeats in their games against Ireland and Wales. Their final game is against France tomorrow.
German-born Matthias Schosser, who was brought up in New Zealand, has been on a training camp with the German national squad ahead of their repechage qualifiers for the Rugby Union World Cup next year. Their first game is against Hong Kong on Sunday.
O’Connor added: “It’s fantastic for the club and great for the individuals.”
Barely seven weeks after ankle surgery, Stuart Hogg will return to the Scotland team to play Fiji in the second autumn Test at BT Murrayfield tomorrow as a proven “fast-starter”.
Last season, coach Gregor Townsend saw the talismanic full back come back twice from injury almost straight into the team and has no reason to believe the Glasgow Warriors man needs further seasoning before returning to his full blend of fiery-hot ability.
Hogg’s return is one of nine changes from the team that lost to Wales a week ago, with three further players switching positions.
The alterations are almost entirely by prior design as Townsend looks to shuffle in new players like Sam Skinner and Matt Fagerson and build his depth prior to the World Cup in Highland head coach Davie Carson aims to mark the halfway stage of the National 2 campaign by remaining second with a victory at Howe of Fife tomorrow.
The Inverness outfit have made a strong start to the season after promotion as National 3 champions last season, winning all but two of their 10 fixtures so far.
Carson’s men will have 12 months. Hogg’s welfare for that event is paramount but there is no risk in giving the playe an early recall.
Townsend said: “When you’ve had experience of someone who has played well (immediately) after being out with injury, like Stuart did twice last year, then you’ll play them.
“But it’s also about how the player is feeling, what the medics and the strength and conditioning team are telling you, what you’re seeing with your own eyes. That all gets added to the mix.
“Stuart’s trained really well. He’s recorded speed times faster than most players have done in Scotland this year, so physically he’s back at a very high level.
“That gives us confidence he’ll play well at the weekend.”
Hogg has not really been away from the squad the whole time – a clear indication that bringing him back during the autumn faced all their league opponents by the time they have faced the second-bottom Fifers tomorrow, and the Canal Park boss is thrilled by how his side has adapted.
Carson said: “In preseason we talked about a top-four finish but there were a lot of teams we had not played before.
“I’m delighted with the way the guys have performed, and how players have stepped up from the seconds when other guys Tests was always going to happen.
Townsend said: “He’s been bending the medics’ ears more than mine.
“We’ve watched closely what he’s been doing in training. We’ve been in close contact with Glasgow.
“We can see with logic and science what he’s done and what his body has told him the day after training.
“Two weeks ago he started full running, and both him and the medical team were saying Fiji was a possibility.
“He still had markers to pass on his ankle and how his body reacts and copes with different stresses and he’s come through that very well.”
But the rotation of personnel means that even Jonny Gray, a staple for his entire career other than when forcibly required to stay home from the summer tour, must take offtime, even if it is only on the bench. have been injured. We sat down four weeks ago and looked at a possible 20 points we could quite easily get.
“We have already picked up 15 and have one away trip to go now. With the way Howe of Fife have been, hopefully we can get the five points down there and still be second at the halfway stage of the season.”
Despite tomorrow’s opponents having a single victory to their name so far, Carson is demanding
Townsend said: “We have to manage Jonny, like a number of players, as this game will be demanding.
“Last week was very demanding for the players and high standards from his players, adding: “Howe of Fife are down there, but it’s the same as Lasswade last week. We have told the guys that if they don’t perform they will get beaten.
“We performed really well last week though, even though it wasn’t up to the high levels of the Stewart’s Melville performance the week before, but we scored seven cracking tries.
“In the last couple of years we have had a good South Africa and Argentina will be huge challenges.
“We believe this squad is a blend of experienced players, players who didn’t play last week coming back away record as well as at home, we have got into that winning mentality.
“We have had one wee slip up and one other game we should not have lost away from home, but we have shown we are quite comfortable going away and putting on the same performances as we do at home.”
Highland are without flanker Oscar Baird who is representing Projecx Waterboys, a Scottish select, at the Cobra 10s in Kuala Lumpur.
UP AND RUNNING: Stuart Hogg had surgery on an ankle just seven weeks ago but Gregor Townsend believes the talismanic full-back can start against Fiji