RUGBY: ITS NOT SO GRIM FOR GRIMES; Happy Stuart bounces back from ban to earn his 50th cap.
The Newcastle lock, who was banned from the South Africa tour and last week's Italy game, will lead out a Scotland XV to play Wales which includes 11 new faces and two positional changes from the team which thrashed the Italians 47-15 on Saturday.
With only one other warm-up game before the final World Cup party is announced on September 9, it will be the first and only chance some players get to book a ticket on the plane to Australia.
Grimes captained the North American tour party last year but lost his starting place to Nathan Hines for the final two games of the Six Nations.
Then the 29-year-old missed the summer tour and the first World Cup warm- up game after being suspended for head-butting in a club match.
His initial 10-week ban would have ruled him out of all three countdown Tests but a successful appeal gives him the chance to impress against the Welsh - and end a five-month wait on 49 caps.
But Grimes admitted his half-century would be more relief than celebration.
He said: "My biggest worry during my suspension wasn't about winning my 50th cap but about making the World Cup.
"The initial ban took me out of these three warm-up games so I could have played for Newcastle but I wouldn't have got the chance to play for Scotland which would have stacked the odds against me to have a reasonable chance to get in the first XV.
"It was frustrating initially missing the tour. I know they didn't win but they played well. Nathan Hines played really well and Scott Murray got back to form. In that sense I have lost a bit of ground. The 50th cap has come along now. It's a big relief to be playing again.
"Normally the first game is on a back pitch somewhere in minor games. But my first match of the season is a Test, winning my 50th cap in Wales, so I'm back with a bang. I'm just glad to be back and available for the World Cup."
Forwards coach Jim Telfer yesterday said his front row of Tom Smith, Gordon Bulloch and Bruce Douglas along with backrow forwards Andrew Mower, Simon Taylor and Jason White were currently first-choice in their positions.
That still leaves the two second-row shirts up for grabs.
Telfer said: "We have great strength in depth at four and five, as strong as I've ever seen it in Scotland.
"Scott Murray, Stuart Grimes, Nathan Hines, Jason White, with Iain Fullarton and Doddie Weir in the background as well. It's difficult to pick two at a time.
"The players do grumble when they are not in the starting line-up, but it's difficult to pick a starting line-up including Murray, Grimes, Hines and White.
"It's a great position to be in, but we don't have the same luxury in other positions."
The scrum-half berth is another where the competition is fierce with Mike Blair piling the pressure on captain Bryan Redpath.
Now current third-choice Graeme Beveridge gets his chance to stake his claim.
The Glasgow No.9 won his first of four caps back in New Zealand in 2000 but has never before started an international.
The 27-year-old said: "I am looking forward to showing what I can do and it is my first actual start so it will be great to get my hands on the No.9 jersey.
"I've been involved a lot - I think I've sat on the bench 18 times now - but you've got to earn your chances and I'm just excited to get one this week."
15 Glenn Metcalfe (Glasgow); 14 Rory Kerr (Glasgow), 13 Andy Craig (Orrell), 12 Brendan Laney (Edinburgh), 11 Simon Danielli (Bath); 10 Gregor Townsend (The Borders), 9 Graeme Beveridge (Glasgow). 1 Gavin Kerr (Leeds Tykes), 2 Gordon Bulloch (Glasgow), 3 Bruce Douglas (The Borders), 4 Scott Murray (Edinburgh, Capt), 5 Stuart Grimes (Newcastle Falcons), 6 Martin Leslie (Edinburgh), 7 Andrew Mower (Newcastle Falcons), 8 Jon Petrie (Glasgow Rugby). Substitutes: 16 Dougie Hall (Edinburgh), 17 Gordon McIlwham (unattached), 18 Nathan Hines (Edinburgh), 19 Andrew Dall (Edinburgh), 20 Mike Blair (Edinburgh),21 Andrew Henderson (Glasgow), 22 Chris Paterson (Edinburgh).
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Aug 28, 2003|
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