Scotland have included nine uncapped players in a squad of 31 for next month’s quadrangular international tournament in South Africa.
The event will see double-header internationals played on three successive weekends in Durban, Nelspruit and Pretoria for the first time and will also involve the hosts, plus Italy and Samoa.
The ground-breaking matches take on added significance as both South Africa and Samoa are in Scotland’s pool at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
The Scotland squad comprises 14 players currently with Glasgow Warriors, who are in RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final action against Leinster this Saturday, nine with Edinburgh Rugby and eight Exiles.
The nine potential newcomers are, in the pack, Steven Lawrie, his fellow hooker Pat MacArthur and lock Tim Swinson; and in the backs, Glasgow Warriors’ quartet Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne, Peter Murchie and Tommy Seymour, full-back Greig Tonks and wing Duncan Taylor.
Five of the uncapped brigade were part of the Scotland A squad that defeated England Saxons 13-9 in Newcastle in February – Lawrie, Swinson, Dunbar, Tonks and try-scorer Taylor. Tonks in particular was outstanding that night in appalling conditions. With the handicap of Stuart Hogg removed he looks set to earn some caps.
Scotland head coach Scott Johnson said: “First up, it’s a strong squad designed to win Test matches against quality opposition.
“We’ve continued to monitor the players’ form closely and we’ve been pleased that Glasgow have reached the knockout stages of the Rabo.”
Johnson has also left one or two familiar faces at home, and indeed it was that familiarity – rather than say a failure to impress often enough at international level that has left the back division in particular with a youthful look.
“We are taking the opportunity to have a look at some players and want to assess what they’re like at this level. We need to be able to find out whether players who’ve done the business for their clubs can replicate that form in international footy.
“We also want to enable certain players who are known to us – for example Nick De Luca and Max Evans – to have the sort of off-season physical preparation that they’ve not had for a few years because of the demands of touring schedules.”
Others who miss out in the forwards include Rob Harley, Ross Rennie and Jon Welsh while Dougie Hall seems to have been leapfrogged in the pecking order by Pat MacArthur. Some of these are a little more peculiar especially with Fusaro out and Barclay the only proper 7, but the forward selection does have plenty of beef, talent and experience in there including newly minted Barbarian Jim Hamilton who may miss some of the tour to be in Hong Kong smashing up the Lions on the 1st of June.
The Scotland squad will convene on Monday 27 May for a three day training camp in Perthshire and the Highlands before flying out to South Africa on Friday 31 May.
More details of the camp and opportunities for supporters to come along to watch the players train and get autographs and photographs will be announced next week. No word yet if any of the tour will be on TV, my thoughts at this stage would be: unlikely.
Here’s a possible XV following on from the discussions over on Gav’s recent post:
Possible Scotland XV: Tonks, S Lamont, Dunbar, Scott, Visser, Heathcote/Jackson, Laidlaw; Grant, MacArthur, Murray, Kellock, Hamilton, Brown (c), Barclay, Beattie
Bench: Dickinson, Ford, Low, Swinson, Wilson, Pyrgos, Horne, Seymour/Murchie
Scotland squad for quadrangular tournament with South Africa, Samoa and Italy next month:
Backs: Alex Dunbar* (Glasgow Warriors), Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby), Peter Horne*, Ruaridh Jackson (both Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Lamont, Peter Murchie*, Henry Pyrgos (all Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby), Tommy Seymour* (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor* (Saracens), Greig Tonks* and Tim Visser (both Edinburgh Rugby)
Forwards: John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Kelly Brown (Saracens) CAPTAIN, Geoff Cross, David Denton (both Edinburgh Rugby), Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks), Ross Ford, Grant Gilchrist (both Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester Rugby), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Steven Lawrie* (Edinburgh Rugby), Moray Low, Pat MacArthur* (both Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Tim Swinson* and Ryan Wilson (both Glasgow Warriors).
* = uncapped
Saturday 8 June v Samoa, King’s Park, Durban, kick-off 2.15pm SA time (1.15pm BST)
Saturday 15 June v South Africa, Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, kick-off 5.15pm SA time (4.15pm BST)
Saturday 22 June match to determine final placings, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, either 2.15 or 5.15pm kick-off local time
Head coach: Scott Johnson
Assistant coaches: Jonathan Humphreys, Matt Taylor, Massimo Cuttitta and Duncan Hodge