Fitness boost for Scotland
Jim Hamilton, Nathan Hines and Rory Lamont have returned to training ahead of Scotland's clash with Ireland.
Last Updated: 09/03/09 5:49pm
Scotland have been boosted by the return to training of Jim Hamilton, Nathan Hines and Rory Lamont ahead of Saturday's RBS Six Nations fixture against Ireland at Murrayfield.
Hines and Lamont are yet to feature in the competition and lock Hamilton missed the victory over Italy last time out after suffering a shoulder injury early in the defeat to France.
Perpignan lock Hines was in danger of sitting out the whole campaign after undergoing knee surgery on February 10, while Lamont has not played since suffering ankle ligament damage while in action for Sale on December 5.
Scotland defence coach Graham Steadman is optimistic Hamilton will be fit to face Ireland and he admits the unexpected presence of the other two at training is a huge bonus.
Steadman said: "The fact we have got three quality players back training with the squad has given everyone a lift.
"The early call on Jim Hamilton is very positive. Nathan, being the experienced pro that he is, will give us an honest call post-session regarding how he has come through it.
"The fact Rory is training with us this week is a boost and it will be interesting to see how far down the track he is in terms of his levels of his fitness.
"It's massive to have these experienced, quality players available. It certainly gives us food for thought for our selection."
Steadman feels only some poor execution from Wales kicker Stephen Jones and France fly-half Lionel Beauxis saved Scotland from heavier defeats in their opening two matches, and admits they are likely to be punished by Ireland's Ronan O'Gara if they continue to concede soft penalties.
He told STV: "It's a stat I'm not too happy with, the fact we have conceded 38 penalties, compared to their 20. Off the back of that, 22 were kickable offences within range.
"Thankfully Jones and the French guy Beauxis had a bit of an off-day. We were the better team in France and indiscipline cost us.
"It's something we have certainly got to tighten up on. Although Ronan O'Gara has not been kicking too well in his previous three games, he was the difference two years back at Murrayfield. He kicked everything and Ireland walked away with the Triple Crown.
"On a good day Ronan O'Gara is a quality player and I would like to think our discipline will tighten up and we won't give him that opportunity."