France v Scotland, Six Nations Championship, February 14
Scots have point to prove
February 9, 2009
Nathan Hines is hoping to be fit to face France this weekend © Getty Images
Scotland duo Nathan Hines and Max Evans are desperate to inspire a return to winning ways in this year's Six Nations against France in Paris this weekend.
Hines sat out the Scots' opening round 26-13 defeat to Wales on Sunday with a knee injury while Evans had to settle for a cameo role - scoring an excellent try after appearing as a second-half replacement. But both are determined to play their part in Saturday's clash at the Stade de France.
Scotland were outplayed and outmuscled by Wales at Murrayfield and Frank Hadden's side were sorely lacking the presence of second row Hines and tighthead Euan Murray who is also sidelined with injury. Hadden said after yesterday's game that neither was looking good for this weekend's trip to Paris - but Hines told PA Sport today he is confident of being fit for Saturday.
"It's okay," he said of his knee injury, which was due to be reassessed this afternoon before tomorrow morning's team announcement. "I'm pretty optimistic. Fingers crossed, I'll be playing. You always want to do your bit, and the most effective way of doing that is to play."
Evans was eventually thrown on for his second cap yesterday and came up with a superb solo try, demonstrating the quick feet and intelligent running that have made him such a big hit at Glasgow. But the game was already over as a contest by that point, and Scotland must decide whether they can afford to ignore their flair men - who also include Chris Paterson and Evans' brother Thom - for a second week in succession.
"I'd love to start. That's the aim of every Scottish player - get the starting jersey," said Evans, who came on for the ineffective Ben Cairns. "I felt for Cairnsy. He didn't quite get the platform he can play his best rugby off, so it'll be interesting next week to see what happens."
Of the prospect of taking on the flamboyant French, he added: "It could be my kind of game. There'll be a bit of anger, so I'm sure the players will come out firing - and whether I'm starting or not, I'll be doing the same."
Hines reckons Evans, Paterson and replacement scrum-half Chris Cusiter have done their causes no harm at all. "The guys who came on have put their hands up to be considered to start," he said. "I think Max and Chris and Chris have done themselves a lot of favours by the way they played."
Asked what went wrong yesterday, Hines said: "Not a lot went right. We were a bit flat and we we didn't dominate at all in attack or defence really. Wales just got a roll on, and they didn't need to play sparkling rugby really."
The 32-year-old dismissed suggestions Scotland's inability to cope with his and Murray's absence cast doubt on Hadden's claim this is the strongest squad of his near four-year tenure.
"I don't think it was because Euan and I were injured at all," said Hines. "It's just unfortunate that a lot of the guys didn't play well. We've definitely got a lot of depth at the moment. I think it's more of a consistency thing."
Hines revealed the most frustrating aspect of yesterday's match was being powerless to prevent the defeat. "You can't beat yourself up about it too much, because you can't do anything," he said, admitting the squad would travel to France with "a little bit less confidence, but more determination.
"You have a stumbling block at the start, and it will either galvanise you as a team - or things could get worse. I know the guys, and it's only going to give them more resolve to play better this weekend."
As well as Hines and Murray (rib), Scotland have injury concerns over 12 more players - two of whom were briefly knocked out making tackles yesterday. Debutant prop Geoff Cross and wing Simon Webster must both pass cognitive tests before they can be allowed to play, with the former also suffering knee strain.
There were also knocks for Cusiter (knee), Mike Blair (dead leg), Scott Gray (neck), Jim Hamilton (eye), Allan Jacobsen (knee), Jason White (calf), John Barclay (neck), Graeme Morrison (knee), Phil Godman (knee bruising) and Cairns (hip).