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Lawson: the No.2 who wants to be No.1

Pounds and power or precision and pace?

Scott Lawson talks tactics with Andy Robinson
Scott Lawson talks tactics with Andy Robinson

It may be slightly unfair to characterise the rivalry of Scotland's hookers in that way but with Ross Ford having been told to find ways of injecting extra speed into his game, Scott Lawson knows that tomorrow's encounter represents the chance he has been waiting for to demonstrate that his strengths best suit Scotland's style.

"It's huge," the product of the Biggar club acknowledged. "Andy [Robinson, Scotland's head coach] has alluded to it. You get an opportunity and it's up to me to make sure I go out and take it and I'll be focused on that on Saturday.

"Opportunities have been kind of few and far between but being named in the team is only a very small part of it. It's about going there on Saturday and putting a performance down, putting a marker down. That's key for me."

Like Kelly Brown, the team's captain, Lawson made his first senior Scotland appearance at Aberdeen's Pittodrie, venue for tomorrow's meeting with Tonga, in 2005 against the Barbarians and both then went on to make try-scoring Test debuts against Romania in Bucharest the following week.

However, the emergence at the same time of the bigger and bulkier Ford, a near ever-present in the No.2 jersey for the past five years, has greatly restricted his opportunities. This is just Lawson's third start in 23 appearances, the others having been against New Zealand, when a weakened side was played against them in the 2007 World Cup pool match, and Italy in last year's World Cup warm-up meeting. He could therefore have been forgiven for being fearful when he was left out of the match 23 for last week's meeting with South Africa in favour of Dougie Hall, just six days after making yet another appearance off the bench against New Zealand.

It is, however, the British & Irish Lion Ford who, three matches after captaining Scotland to three Test wins on tour in the summer, has paid a price for looking "one-paced" as his head coach described him. "You get a bit older, you get a bit wiser, you don't let these things throw you off," Lawson said of being left out last week. "You've got to look after your own stuff. I went away and played last week for London Irish against Leicester. I feel like I'm sharp and good to go. The opportunities to play don't come that often for me. I had one in the World Cup [against Georgia] but it passed me by when I picked up an injury in the team run and that was it."

He has worked to improve his game, but the one-time scrum-half knows he must concentrate on what he is good at, throwing accurately at the lineouts and getting around the pitch to good effect while looking to punch above his weight, metaphorically at least, in the scrums.

"People have asked the question about what I need to work on. I look at myself, I look at Fordy, we're two different animals. I can't try to play the game like Fordy and he probably can't try to play the game like me. It's about finding your strengths and playing to them. That contrast between our styles . . . we are different in the way we play the game and the way we are. I've had conversations with Andy over the last few years about things I need to work on to get my game up to Test standard."

The competition has been tough but, Lawson, believes, good for him. "It's been very, very hard," he admitted. "I've been knocking on the door for a long time to get that opportunity to play and it's now about taking that and going and performing.

"Fordy, Dougie and myself have been going at it for the last few years since I've been involved. Fordy's had a stranglehold and rightly so, on his performances. You don't get made captain for no reason. He got that on his form and it's been a great target for me to try to chase that within the club game and international-wise you've always got targets to hit on."

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