Leslie fit to lead Scotland
February 3, 2000
Former Kiwi John Leslie has won his fitness fight and will captain Scotland in their Six Nations Championship opener against Italy in Rome on Saturday.
The 29-year-old centre had been given three days by coach Ian McGeechan to prove he was ready for a return to action as he bid to come back after rupturing ankle ligaments in the World Cup encounter with South Africa in October.
McGeechan confirmed: "John has done everything that was asked of him" - and named him at inside centre for the ground-breaking contest which is Italy's first official game in the European Championship.
As expected, Leslie's fellow Kiwi Shaun Longstaff takes over the role vacated by injured winger Cammie Murray, while Bristol's Jamie Mayer will partner Leslie in the centre following the retirement of British Lion Alan Tait.
McGeechan has stuck largely with the side which represented Scotland in the World Cup, although he has drafted Matty Stewart, who played under the coach at Northampton, into the front row.
Stewart gained the nod over Dave Hilton despite the latter's impressive performances for Glasgow Caledonians this season.
Stuart Grimes pipped his Newcastle team-mate Doddie Weir for the right to partner Scott Murray in the second row.
Narbonne's Brian Redpath will renew his half-back partnership with the mercurial talent of fellow French exile Gregor Townsend, taking over the scrum-half berth from the now retired Gary Armstrong.
Glasgow Caledonian winger Alan Bulloch was the unlucky man out of the 23-strong squad. He will travel to the Italian capital with the Scottish party but will play no part after James McLaren claimed the final berth on the replacements' bench.
The Scotland team for Six Nations opener with Italy to be played in Rome on Saturday:
Glenn Metcalfe (Glasgow Caledonians), Shaun Longstaff (Glasgow Caledonians), Jamie Mayer (Bristol), John Leslie (Newcastle, captain), Kenny Logan (Wasps), Gregor Townsend (Brive), Bryan Redpath (Narbonne), Tom Smith (Brive), Gordon Bulloch (Glasgow Caledonians), Mattie Stewart (Northampton), Scott Murray (Saracens), Stuart Grimes (Newcastle), Martin Leslie (Edinburgh Reivers), Budge Pountney (Northampton), Gordon Simpson (Glasgow Caledonians).
Replacements: Andrew Nicol (Glasgow Caledonians), Duncan Hodge (Edinburgh Reivers), James McLaren (Bourgoin), David Hilton (Glasgow Caledonians), Robert Russell (Saracens), Doddie Weir (Newcastle), Stuart Reid (Narbonne)