Ryan Grant is the obvious candidate here, following his tour with the British & Irish Lions this summer. He may have to curb his enthusiasm in the scrum though, given the amount of penalties he gives away for Glasgow, particularly for early engagement or binding issues at the set piece. Ironically, the change in scrummaging laws this season would have potentially seen Chunk excel with his low centre of gravity and ability to bore into his opposite tighthead. However, in his absence Grant will get more minutes at this level and the Boks’ game will be a good test of where he’s at for us. Ali Dickinson, Moray Low and Jon Welsh are all in the provisional squad and capable of playing at one and Gordy Reid must be disappointed not to be considered, but given that Ryan Grant is the only specialist loosehead he should secure the jersey.
Sorry to bang on about the Lions but after Dylan Hartley received his ban and couldn’t play it is interesting to note that Ross Ford wasn’t mooted as a replacement option, by anyone. For a player who made the grade 4 years ago, touted as future Lions captain it is a notable benchmark as to how firmly his career has plateaued since. He is named in the squad (of course) along with Scott Lawson (as standard) but Pat McArthur should take his rightful place as starting hooker this Autumn. Lots has been said about the exclusion of Dougie Hall, who’s done no wrong but the answer to that riddle may be that Stuart McInally has also been invited to train with the squad and Steve Lawrie is listed as ‘unavailable through injury’. Hopefully this additional competition will spur on Ross Ford; otherwise he can condition himself for 20 minutes of international rugby off the bench for the next few years.
This is fast becoming a problem position for Scotland. Yes, right now we have Geoff Cross and Euan Murray vying for the starting spot with Dickinson, Low and (converted) Welsh on the back burner but that paints a false picture. Looking ahead to the 2015 World Cup (as Scott Johnson keeps banging on about) and Geoff and The Rev will probably not be the answer and there is a distinct lack of world-class, specialist threes behind them in the pecking order. In fact, there are none. Unless you consider Ed Kalman a viable option? Which I personally don’t, give me Mike Cusack anytime. For the Autumn Tests however, my money would be on Geoff Cross. He’s an experienced, solid anchor for the scrum and whilst he may not have as much of the devastating raw strength of Euan Murray in the scrum he is at least available for the South Africa game, which will be huge.
Our team so far:
3. Geoff Cross 2. Pat McArthur, 1. Ryan Grant
Bench: Ali Dickinson, Ross Ford, Jon Welsh