Dickinson handed chance to impress
Scotland have lost Ryan Grant to the British and Irish Lions but coach Scott Johnson is keen to see what Alasdair Dickinson has to offer as he steps into the front row to tackle Samoa.
Prop Grant's sudden promotion to the Lions' ranks forced Scotland into a late shuffle of their squad for Saturday's opener to the four-team tournament in South Africa, that also features the hosts and Italy. Dickinson, who is moving from Sale to Edinburgh this summer, benefits, while Glasgow prop Moray Low is handed a place on the bench.
"From what I have seen, he is a quality athlete and, for his position possesses a skillset that you don't see very often around the game," said Johnson.
Jon Welsh, who even interim head coach Johnson admitted was unlucky to have missed the original selection for the tour, will be flying to South Africa over the weekend to join the rest of the squad as Grant's replacement.
So while Johnson was excited by Grant's call-up by the Lions, he is relishing the chance to see Dickinson in action. The prop has been injured for most of the season Johnson has been involved with Scottish rugby and the 29-year-old has not started a Test since the second of the warm-up games before the 2011 World Cup.
Johnson added: "He can compete with anyone athletically and I am quite excited to see what he can bring. I keep coming back to the point that I want us to be competitive in all positions and hopefully that puts pressure on everyone. Ryan, Dicko [Dickinson] and Moray [Low] will all become better players if they are all fighting and vying for their positions. It is a great opportunity for him."
The changes created a last-moment level of uncertainty as Scotland prepared to take on Samoa. They may never have lost to Saturday's opponents but both the last two games have been won only in the dying seconds, so there was no shortage of respect in the Scottish camp as they finished their preparations for the match.
The tournament is being played under the bonus-point system that is common in tournaments across the world. That means not only do Scotland need to win but, to give themselves a good chance of reaching the final in a fortnight, they almost certainly need to prevent Samoa picking up a losing bonus point as well.
Not that Johnson is worrying too much about that level of forward planning. As far as he is concerned, the important thing is to get the victory while blooding as many new players as he can.
"I keep saying that at the end of this, we need greater depth in our squad and we need to know the standard of our players and this is a perfect opportunity to see that," he said.