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Denton pays for poor form

Dave Denton, Scotland's outstanding player in last season's RBS 6 Nations Championship, will not be in the starting line-up when the team to face world champions New Zealand at Murrayfield on Sunday is announce this morning.

The head coach Andy Robinson has kept his cards close to his chest, but Herald Sport understands that Denton's unimpressive recent form has counted against him. The Edinburgh forward missed out on Scotland's summer tour to Australasia due to an ankle injury, and it appears his recent performances have not been good enough to force his way back into the team.

Al Strokosch, the Paisley-born flanker who now plays for French side Perpignan, is the beneficiary of Denton's misfortune. Strokosch will play in his specialist position on the blindside flank, with Kelly Brown, the new captain who plays most of his club rugby in that slot, moving over to the No.8 berth that Denton occupied for Scotland last season.

Robinson almost certainly made up his mind on the back-row selection after watching Edinburgh's two Heineken Cup matches against Saracens and Munster. The capital side lost those games 45-0 and 33-0 and Denton was largely anonymous in both matches. An improved performance against Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 was not enough to save his place.

Greig Laidlaw, who has also struggled for form at Edinburgh, has been rather luckier, and is expected to be confirmed as the starting fly-half, getting the nod ahead of Glasgow's Ruaridh Jackson. Laidlaw made his debut against the All Blacks two years ago when he came on as a replacement, albeit in the scrum-half berth.

Glasgow winger Sean Lamont, who has not played for a number of weeks, is also expected to be named in the team.

Last night, the indications were that lock Richie Gray might just win his battle to be fit for the game, despite suggestions from Sale coach Steve Diamond that he would be unable to play.

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