Scotland coach Steve McCormack has made two changes to his 19-man squad for the Ladbrokes Four Nations clash with New Zealand on Friday night.
In come halfback Ryan Brierley and forward Billy McConnachie, who both made their Test debuts in the defeat to Australia in the tournament opener, replacing hooker Callum Phillips and Widnes forward Sam Brooks.
Huddersfield’s Brierley has fully recovered from the ankle sprain that ruled him out of training during the build-up to the England clash, while McConnachie of Ipswich Jets gets another opportunity after impressing in training this week in Preston. Workington Town youngster Phillips will be disappointed to miss out on his home ground, but older brother Brett is in the 19 and hoping to make his Four Nations bow on his club ground.
Scotland face on more training session at the University of Central Lancashire on Thursday lunchtime, having delayed their trip to Cumbria due to the inclement weather making the Derwent Park pitch unavailable until Friday night. Kane Linnett, scorer of Scotland’s opening try against England last Saturday, has recovered from an ankle injury and Scotland coach Steve McCormack is thrilled to have a world-class centre in his ranks.
“I thought Kane was a big player for us against both Australia and England,” said McCormack, who has led Scotland at Workington three times in the past three years. “He is a quiet achiever in this team and if you speak to anybody at North Queensland Cowboys, they will tell you how good he is. They have got some world class players in that team and Kane is one of them.
“I think every time he has played for us, whether it be in the World Cup or Four Nations, he has been great. I like the way he goes about his business because he works hard and keeps his head down and he is world class for me.”
Even though he was born and bred in New South Wales, 27-year-old Linnett is eligible to play for the Bravehearts through his mother, who spent her early childhood in Cambuslang, and made his debut three years ago.
“I love playing for Scotland,” he said. “I look forward to at the end of the year. I’m very proud to wear the Scotland jersey. My mum was born in Glasgow and she moved over to Australia when she was around eight-years-old. I have Scottish relatives back home in Australia who all get up early to watch me play for Scotland. I still have family in Scotland and they all watch me, too. I’ve had a chance to catch up with a few aunties and uncles in Scotland since I’ve been over and it’s been good to see them.”
Linnett and Scotland full-back Lachlan Coote will be up against their North Queensland Cowboys team-mate and 2015 Dally M winner Jason Taumalolo on Friday night, when the freezing cold and wet conditions at Workington will be vastly different to tropical Townsville.
“Jason had a very good year at the Cowboys and is a big boy,” said Linnett. “He is very strong and our middles are going to have their work cut out to try and stop him. Hopefully we can get in the face of him this weekend and cut him down before he gets too much ball. He is difficult to tackle but not just because he is so big – he has got good footwork for a forward, too. He also gets in-between defenders and causes problems.
“Martin Taupau has also played some good footy this year as well so we need to make sure we cut their forwards down because if we don’t, players like Shaun Johnson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall will jump on the back of it.”
Linnett is delighted to be returning to their ‘second home’ on Friday night, the Zebra Claims Stadium.
“We want to finish on a good note and playing up in Cumbria as well is great because we will have a lot of Scotland supporters up there so we want to perform good for them as well as us.
“Whenever we play there we get a great crowd. We have played some of our best footy there and caused an upset against Tonga there a few years back, so I think if we can get a good kicking game then that would put us in good shape.
“There is only one more game left of the year and it is a long way to come over here for me to play so hopefully I can go out on a positive note and put a solid performance in.”