Props. Good ones are scarce in world rugby, but not extinct. They might be soon in Scotland, though, if there is not a strategic plan to develop them in every junior club in the country. Scrummaging is woefully under coached, as are most skills.
If you’re going to rub ears with Cian Healy, Gethin Jenkins, Dan Cole or Martin Castrogiovanni – lordy let’s not even mention the French – in the Six Nations cauldron, you need to be more than just the guy first in the queue at the burger van.
Tightheads: South Africa’s World Cup winning coach Jake White once said when asked who his most important players were: “The most important is my tighthead and the second most important my reserve tighthead.” Edinburgh’s (for now South African) WP Nel has looked accomplished in the set-piece and is growing into his project-player role. He’s holding the shirt at Edinburgh. Glasgow’s Mike Cusack is not qualified either. So who does that leave?
Scotland do have one prop who has at times been very good indeed. The only problem is that due to his beliefs he won’t play on a Sunday. Scotland play Ireland on a Sunday, but as in recent years that is unlikely to rule him out of contention even if whoever gets his shirt that day plays a blinder. On his day he can make a mess of any scrum in World Rugby. Tends to play better with Jim Hamilton behind him. As Tom has already left him out, might we leave out Murray too?
Chunk has gone, Edinburgh took a pummelling in the scrums over the seasonal double header, especially without Nel. If there won’t be too much set piece stuff he comes into contention; he’s a decent ball carrier. But we’re playing England first, and France last. Those are the key ones and they’ll require scrummaging.
Low had a quiet season last year with injury and found his place in the Scotland pecking order usurped slightly with the emergence of Welsh and Grant. He does have versatility on his side, although this is less key now that you can put a whole front row on the bench. Is forming a fairly handy pairing with Ryan Grant although you get the sense he’s less comfortable in the set-piece than his bearded companion.
Looseheads: With Chunk having retired, cover looks a little thin if you’re a Scotland selector. Edinburgh have John Yapp but unlike Jon Welsh he’s actually Welsh; behind him and Chunk wait untried youngsters like U20s cap Robin Hislop.
Had a fairly good time making others look miserable over the 1872 Cup and has all but stitched his name onto Chunk’s old shirt. If only for the fact he looks fairly competent and throws himself into everything in a way that endears him to Scottish rugby fans (well, maybe not Edinburgh fans). We won’t mention the L word just yet.
Jon Welsh was nearly the find of last year, having had a fairly useful Six Nations. Then he injured himself on the summer tour and grizzled assassin Grant stole all his thunder. Welsh currently lingers on the injured roster but is possibly due back by January. More likely it will be too soon but if fit his versatility could see him make the squad.
Also considered for selection: Gordie Reid, Kyle Traynor, Robin Hislop, Grant Shiells, Ed Kalman (back injury), Jon Welsh (shoulder injury)
Our Picks: Ryan Grant and Euan Murray. We should probably make it clear that a couple more good games from Low or Cross could see them become our new favourites. But it’s not a great choice of tightheads is it really? Religious reasons aside, this pair probably represent our best defence against England’s set piece.
Team so far: Ryan Grant, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Rob Harley