Following the monumental soiling of bed linen by Scotland on Saturday and the injuries the squad here is a look at my proposed 23 man squad for the finale against Italy. I have picked my 23 man squad based on all the players with knocks after Saturday (Hogg, Wilson, Russell, Seymour, Huw Jones and my namesake) not being available, although it looks like some will probably come through. For the purposes of being realistic I have picked from the current squad as much as possible, but also added some possible left field choices just to add food for thought.
1. Loose head prop
Available in the squad: Gordon Reid, Allan Dell, Alex Allan
My pick: Gordon Reid. Reid is the best option we have at loose head in terms of scrummaging and despite being part of that thumping he was one of the more positive players even chipping in a try. Let’s be honest we are into third string choices in the absence of Dickinson and Sutherland.
Left Field Choice: Where is Ryan Grant these days? Used to be a stalwart.
Available in the squad: Fraser Brown, Ross Ford, Stuart McInally
My pick: Ross Ford. We can argue all day about whether Brown should have seen red or not after tipping Daly early on Saturday, but truthfully I do not think he has been consistent at all this championship. Our scrummaging has improved greatly each game Ford came this championship and he is far more disciplined all round.
Left Field Choice: Neil Cochrane – it is definitely a left field choice for such a seasoned player, but he could do a job. He does the job of hookers by throwing and actually hooking the ball.
3. Tight Head Prop
Available in the squad: Zander Fagerson, Simon Berghan, Jon Welsh
My Pick: Simon Berghan
Arguably the better scrummager out of the three and fairly solid in the loose. I think Zander needs to be rested after the England game. He lost his head and was involved far too much in the nonsense for my liking. I am not throwing the young man under the bus, but think this would benefit him in the long run. Lets be honest we really miss Nel.
Left Field Choice: Kevin Bryce – he has been moved from hooker for Edinburgh and looks solid and comfortable there OR Murray McCallum – what a story he has been.
4 & 5 Locks
Available in the squad: Jonny Gray, Tim Swinson, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Rob Harley
My Picks: Jonny Gray and Ben Toolis. Jonny is an obvious choice and aside from a stinker across the board on Saturday has been a tremendous player this champs. Ben Toolis leapfrogs Swinson largely so we have experience on the bench. Toolis has been good on a poor Edinburgh side and as a former volleyball international provides a lot of leap in the line out.
Left Field Choice: Don’t really have one. Our second row is pretty solid. Maybe Scott Cummings from Glasgow.
6. Blindside Flanker
Available in the squad: John Barclay, Rob Harley, Cornell Du Prez
Potential call ups: Magnus Bradbury, Adam Ashe
My Pick: John Barclay. I am not sold on Barclay as a captain. I think his discipline is lacking at times, but he is still deserving and the right guy for the six jersey. Strictly speaking he is an openside, but I think this is the way to go.
Left field choice: Johnnie Beattie – it would be interesting at least. Kelly Brown – he’s still pretty good.
7. Openside Flanker
Available in the squad: Hamish Watson, John Barclay
Potential Call Ups: Jamie Ritchie, Chris Fusaro, Blair Cowan, Hugh Blake
My Pick: Hamish Watson. Been phenomenal most of the tournament and as one of the younger lads in the team you can’t put too much blame on him for the implosion. Think somebody has to wrestle that shirt off him.
Left field choice: Any one of the potential call ups.
8. Number 8
Available in the squad: Cornell Du Preez, John Barclay
Potential Call Ups: Magnus Bradbury, Adam Ashe
My Pick: Cornell Du Preez. A debut to forget. Has an X Factor and deserves a shot to show what he can do.
Left Field Choice: Joseva Nayacavou – this is really left field, but can this guy play 15s? OR Richie Vernon – do not really need to say much.
9. Scrum Half
Available in the squad: Henry Pyrgos, Ali Price
Potential call ups: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Sean Kennedy, Grayson Hart
My Pick: Ali Price. I wasn’t sure why he was shoved out on the wing when he could have been more effective in the thick of it. Pyrgos is slower in delivery and Price can get the backs working.
Left field choice: SHC – on his day I would argue he is our best player at scrummy, but his form has been lacking.
10. Fly Half
Available in the squad: Duncan Weir
Potential Call Ups: Peter Horne, Ruaridh Jackson
My Pick: Duncan Weir. If Duncan had not been with the squad for the whole championship I would have gone a different way, but the fact is this is a key position and the guy who has trained each week should start.
Left Field Choice: Adam Hastings – I am surprised he has not had his chance yet.
11 & 14. Wings
Available in the squad: Damien Hoyland, Sean Maitland, Tim Visser
Potential Call Ups: Lee Jones, Rory Hughes, Tom Brown, Sean Lamont
11. Tim Visser – proved in the last 20 minutes of the England game what he can do with the ball in hand. Give him the ball early this time.
14. Damien Hoyland – winning out on being with the squad and the fact with half decent ball he will score tries.
Left Field Choice: James Fleming or Jamie Farndale – two guys looking good in the abbreviated version of the game. Not gonna happen and hence a left field choice.
12. Inside Centre
Available in the squad: Matt Scott, Alex Dunbar
Potential Call Ups: Duncan Taylor, Nick Grigg
My Pick: Alex Dunbar. Dunbar is like an extra back row on a good day and last Saturday was an awful day. Should not be dropped, but I think his Lions chances are scuppered.
Left Field Choice: Chris Dean – I think he has a chance of getting in. Been a good performer in black this year.
13. Outside Centre
Available in squad: Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott
Potential Call Ups: Duncan Taylor (?), Nick Grigg, Sean Lamont
My Pick: Matt Scott. He can do a job for us and on his day is outstanding. Has played fly half in the past and gives us a secondary creative option out there.
Left field choice: Junior Balumakau – at wing or centre – why not. He can score tries. Dougie Fife – found some form at sevens and I doubt he has forgotten how to play the 15 man game.
15. Full Back
Available in squad: Sean Maitland, Damien Hoyland
Potential Call Ups: Blair Kinghorn, Peter Murchie, Ruaridh Jackson
My Pick: Sean Maitland. Played well until the injury took him out the squad and probably the defensively the best full back out of what is available. Lets be honest, ideally we want Hoggy back, but Maitland is a solid full back and I have no concerns with him back there.
Left field choice: Probably Kinghorn, but an even bigger surprise would be Darcy Graham who has been awesome for the U20s.
16. Stuart McInally – for all the reasons I said about dropping Brown and he would be an impact sub.
17. Allan Dell – one of the best ‘footballing’ LHPs going and brings something different off the bench.
18. Zander Fagerson – I said my piece as to why he shouldn’t start, but don’t think he merits being dropped.
19. Tim Swinson – Solid experience off the bench.
20. Richie Vernon – I know he is a centre now, but that versatility could be invaluable to come on at 7 or 8.
21. Henry Pyrgos – been with the squad and frankly the only reason I’d pick him.
22. Peter Horne – Can bring something special off the bench. I might have went with Jackson, but Peter
being with Glasgow will allow him to hit the ground running.
23. Sean Lamont – a tonne of experience to bring on if needed.
By Richard Gray. You can follow him on twitter @ramboliwa