Glasgow Warriors’ assistant coach Shade Munro has been named today as head coach of Scotland A for their game against England Saxons at Scotstoun Stadium later this month.
Munro has been given the reins once again after leading Scotland A to their first win on English soil at that level, beating the Saxons 13-9 in Newcastle last February.
He will be assisted by fellow Glasgow coach Kenny Murray and Edinburgh Rugby assistant coach Stevie Scott for the match on Friday 31 January (kick-off 7.30pm).
Today the trio named a 23-man squad for the fixture, comprising 12 Glasgow Warriors, six Exiles and five from Edinburgh Rugby, including a fair selection of Edinburgh’s new Scots’ qualified imports.
Five of the A squad are currently training with the senior Scotland squad and Munro and Scotland head coach Scott Johnson are liaising closely to give both national teams – Scotland open their RBS 6 Nations campaign against Ireland in Dublin two days after the A match – the best chance of success.
Johnson and Munro also subscribe to the belief that the A team is a means of finding out whether players are ready and able to win promotion to the senior side, whether now or in the future. Those of us hoping that Greig Tonks might be given a run at 10 during the tournament will be disappointed to see his name included here. Those of us hoping to see Roddy Grant or John Barclay’s names might be something close to anger…
Shade Munro said: “This is a game the players and supporters all look forward to as it’s a one-off match and it’s fantastic that we’re playing the game in Glasgow this year for the first time.
“I’m delighted to have been named head coach once again and after last year’s victory down in England and our success at Netherdale two years ago, we’re looking to try to continue our good record against the Saxons.”
The squad comprises ten players who would be making their first appearance for Scotland A – forwards Olly Atkins, Fraser Brown, Kevin Bryce, Blair Cowan, Jonny Gray, Tyrone Holmes and Kieran Low; and backs Byron McGuigan, Mark Bennett and Grayson Hart. Gray and Brown already have full caps.
At the opposite end of the experience spectrum is Ally Hogg, the 48-times full-capped back-row forward, who celebrated his 31st birthday yesterday. Hogg has not played for Scotland since the 2009 RBS 6 Nations Championship and, indeed made his Scotland A debut against Romania, 12 years ago, but his form at Newcastle Falcons has been monitored closely by the coaches.
Elsewhere, two younger forwards who won full caps during the viagogo Autumn Tests, former Scotland under-20 captain Jonny Gray and London Irish back-rower Kieran Low, are listed, Gray having worked hard to be ready to return from injury, while three of the props who featured in last year’s heroic victory at Kingston Park, Jon Welsh, Gordon Reid and Grant Shiells, are primed for front-row duty.
In the backs, Richie Vernon’s rapid education as a centre three-quarter, continuing his transformation from a back-row forward, is set for another step-up.
Munro added: “We’ll be coming together as a squad next week. I’m pleased with the mix of promising young talent and hard-nosed experience that we have in the squad and we’ll look forward to performing at Scotstoun.”
Kenny Murray, who made the step up from club rugby to professional rugby in July when he joined the Warriors from Ayr, has been given the opportunity to coach a national squad for the first time.
Murray said: “I’m honoured to have been asked to help coach Scotland A this year. I’ve really enjoyed the last six months at the Warriors and this is another big opportunity for me.
“It will feel very familiar working with Shade (Munro) and playing the game at Scotstoun and I’m looking forward to working alongside Stevie (Scott) for the first time.”
Stevie Scott said: “It will be good to be involved with Scotland A again and hopefully we can build on last year’s fantastic win down in England.”
Tickets for the game at Scotstoun are on sale now and start from £10 for adults with all under-18 tickets just £5. They can be booked online at www.glasgowwarriors.org or www.scottishrugby.org and over the phone by calling 0844 800 3490 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).
Scotland A squad: Forwards – Olly Atkins (Edinburgh Rugby), Fraser Brown, Kevin Bryce (both Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Jonny Gray, Robert Harley (both Glasgow Warriors), Allister Hogg (Newcastle Falcons), Tyrone Holmes, Ed Kalman (both Glasgow Warriors), Kieran Low (London Irish), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Shiells (Newcastle Falcons) and Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors)
Backs – Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Jack Cuthbert, Dougie Fife (both Edinburgh Rugby), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), Grayson Hart (Edinburgh Rugby), Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby), Byron McGuigan, Henry Pyrgos (both Glasgow Warriors), Greig Tonks (Edinburgh Rugby) and Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors)