The announcement of just three Scots among the 2013 British and Irish Lions will leave Scott Johnson with an almost full-strength side to select for the forthcoming tour to South Africa.
With Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland included amongst the backs for Warren Gatland’s tourists, and Richie Gray the only Scottish forward to make the final cut, Johnson will be able to call upon a number of experienced campaigners for the Quadrangular tournament against Samoa, Italy and the host nation.
Captain Kelly Brown and try-machine Tim Visser were, according to Gatland, very unlucky to miss out, while many had Glasgow prop Ryan Grant and Edinburgh captain Greig Laidlaw among their squads, but all will now focus their attention towards a tough trip.
Johnson is likely to introduce Edinburgh player of the season Greig Tonks to the senior fold for the first time in the absence of Hogg at full-back, while Nikki Walker, Lee Jones and Max Evans are in contention to take Maitland’s vacated wing berth. The likelihood though is that Sean Lamont will move back out, once again creating selection headaches in the centre.
Meanwhile, Gray’s absence in the pack once again pits Al Kellock against Grant Gilchrist in the battle to partner Jim Hamilton in the Scotland boiler-house, with the latter earning selection for his first cap in the final match of the Six Nations in Paris.
Euan Murray and Ross Ford, themselves Lions four years ago, will draw upon their experiences of touring South Africa and provide the squad with essential top-level experience as Johnson’s men attempt to bolster their position in the World Rankings.
While the disappointment of missing out will be palpable for many of Scotland’s top performers, the tour to South Africa represents a chance for them to prove to Gatland and his staff that they made the wrong decision.
There is also a crucial issue of back-up players for the Lions, who will face injury worries Down Under, and impressive performances in the Quadrangular tournament could propel any number of Scots onto the plane to Australia, even if a little later than the three originally selected.
Probable Scotland team for summer tour: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Greig Laidlaw; 1 Ryan Grant, 2 Ross Ford, 3 Euan Murray, 4 Jim Hamilton, 5 Al Kellock, 6 Kelly Brown (c), 7 Ross Rennie, 8 Johnnie Beattie
Others in squad: Peter Murchie, Max Evans, Alex Dunbar, Alex Grove, Nikki Walker, Lee Jones, Tom Heathcote, Henry Pyrgos, Sean Kennedy; Al Dickinson, Steven Lawrie, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Grant Gilchrist, Tom Ryder, John Barclay, Richie Vernon, Ryan Wilson, Al Strokosch