Hadden ready to welcome back Smith
June 5, 2007
Scotland coach Frank Hadden will keep a close eye on Edinburgh prop Craig Smith during next week's Churchill Cup as he looks ahead to the World Cup.
Smith, who has been out of action for six months with a neck injury, is expected to make his comeback next week for Scotland A against either the USA or the English Saxons.
And Hadden, who is coaching the A team for this tournament, has made it clear that a good showing by the 28-year-old would catapult him right back into contention for the full national side.
``I'm delighted to see that Craig is fit and ready to go,'' said Hadden of the 18-times capped forward.
``I think it is only five months since his neck operation, but he scrummaged as early as two weeks ago and he's been taking a full part in sessions for the last fortnight.
``It's great because he is an outstanding player and he was playing really well at the end of last season.
``He was a late starter in the front row - he started life as a number eight - so it has taken him a while to get a hang of the scrummaging, but over the last year or so we've seen a real improvement in that area from him.
``Now we are going to find out over the next three days if he is match fit and whether he has continued to make progress in that area of his game. It is an exciting challenge for him.''
Hadden does not envisage the player having any problems returning to the unforgiving world of front-row rugby, despite the severity of the injury he has had to deal with over the last six months.
Hadden said: ``He's just delighted to be back to full strength again because he was operating with an injury for such a long spell, where he was unable to bench-press and do the gym work that he felt he needed to do.
``Two days after the operation he had instant relief so he is feeling mentally a lot more comfortable than he did before he had the operation.''