De Luca counts cost of ban
Nick De Luca will be unable to join Scotland's promising RBS 6 Nations campaign after being handed a 13-week ban for a dangerous tackle.
The Edinburgh centre was penalised by a RaboDirect Pro12 disciplinary committee on Wednesday for a tip-tackle on Ospreys scrum-half Tom Grabham during his side's defeat at the Liberty Stadium last Friday.
De Luca has missed Scotland's three Six Nations games after suffering a fractured eye socket before the championship began but his outing against Ospreys was his second match since making a swifter-than-expected recovery and he would have pushed for a place for the games against Wales and France next month.
De Luca, who has 38 caps for Scotland, is suspended until May 27, which could leave him too short of match practice to make the national team's summer schedule in South Africa. However, he does have the right to appeal.
Sean Lamont and Matt Scott have been playing in the centre positions in De Luca's absence for Scotland in a settled backs division that has seen Greig Laidlaw and Ruaridh Jackson combine well.
Laidlaw, who kicked all of Scotland's points in the 12-8 victory over Ireland on Sunday, moved to scrum-half following the international retirement of Mike Blair and Jackson has been impressed with his partner's transition.
"He has been great, he has slotted back into that nine position seamlessly," Jackson said.
"He is going very well, he got the man of the match against Italy and was probably a good candidate last weekend the way he kicked his goals in that pressured environment.
"He is a great player to play outside. he is a noisy, vocal nine.
"He bosses the forwards in the right places and gets the backs going. He is a smart player and it makes my job easier."