It seems unlikely there will be many new faces when Andy Robinson names his Scotland squad later this week for the summer tour Down Under, with only 28 places available on the plane to Australia.
Robinson is likely to keep faith with the majority of the squad involved in this year’s Six Nations, with soon-to-be-qualified try machine Tim Visser certain to travel, and expected to be the only new face in the squad. Visser’s inclusion was always going to come at this stage given his club form, and he will probably replace injured Edinburgh team-mate Lee Jones.
Alasdair Strokosch will come back into contention after missing the latter half of the Six Nations, giving Robinson more options in the back-row, where Richie Vernon is also set for a recall as David Denton recovers from an ankle ligament injury.
Question marks have been raised over the form of veteran prop Allan Jacobsen in recent months, and for that reason, Jon Welsh is likely to travel following his impressive performances for Glasgow, and his international debut against Italy. There has been talk in some quarters of ‘Chunk’ being rested for the tour, so Ryan Grant may find himself on the plane.
One area where Robinson may be forced into experimenting, and bringing in a new face, is at lock. With Jim Hamilton suspended and Nathan Hines retired, Glasgow lock Tom Ryder would seem favourite to come into the squad, with Rob Harley’s versatility adding a fourth second-row option.
Behind the pack, Robinson is somewhat short on options, with Rory Lamont and Nikki Walker long-term injury absentees, and Visser not available for the first match against the Wallabies. Joe Ansbro‘s return to fitness and form is a timely boost, and he may well fill the number 12 jersey with Nick De Luca again outside him. Max Evans and Stuart Hogg would provide the other back-three options.
What of the likes of Hugo Southwell and Simon Taylor, though? The pair have been in form and it looks, on paper, a squad bereft of experience, especially behind the scrum. Southwell was awarded London Wasps’ Players Player of the Year, and could offer something different from or perhaps in tandem with the mercurial Hogg.
Whatever Robinson chooses to do, it is sure to be a tough examination of his coaching ability, and of his players, as they aim to put right the results that have seen Scotland plummet to 11th in the world rankings.