With the announcement that Grant Gilchrist has broken his arm and will miss the Autumn Internationals – and beyond – Scotland’s training camp may not be quite as settled as the management team would have hoped.
Coming off the back of a successful European start by both Edinburgh and Glasgow and with several players hitting form at just the right time – although Tommy Seymour hit his head as well, he should recover – things were looking good, but now the new coach has to find a captain in short order.
It does allow Cotter to sidestep the sticky issue of whether Gilchrist was in the form to justify his place, which was in doubt.
Both Gray brothers are in very good tune at the moment, with Jonny definitely due a run of starts for Scotland. Reports of a dramatic increase in workrate from Richie Gray would point to a potential Gray family second row, and Tim Swinson has been playing well for Glasgow also. Jim Hamilton is in the squad now although was absent initially due to the pace of the game Scotland may want to play.
So Gilchrist might have snuck into the team, but here at Blog Towers we’re a firm believer in picking your captain from your team, not picking your captain then your team.
So with that in mind, Jonny Gray – who has captained at age grade level – would be a good choice. He fits the mould Cotter seems to be looking for – someone near certain to be in the team for years to come, with leadership capabilities and plenty of time to mature into the role. Almost a like for like swap.
There are candidates elsewhere in the squad too.
Ross Ford should be mentioned as he has done the job before. But with concerns on his set-piece skills (throwing, hooking) he is best left to concentrate on those, especially has he seems to react quite well to being dropped – and should no longer be a certainty at hooker.
Another senior leader is Sean Lamont, who would give no shortage of heart and effort wherever he was played but barring injury elsewhere, he may be unlikely to start unless there is another crisis in the centre.
Which leads us back to Andy Robinson’s previously tried policy of “the 9 is captain”. This was criticised, but perhaps unjustly. It allows you to select your team with a free hand which for Scotland is a blessing. And Cotter’s squad has 3 able leaders at scrum-half in Greig Laidlaw, Chris Cusiter and Henry Pyrgos. Pyrgos is an outside bet to captain (maybe not to start though) but has led Glasgow well when asked. Cusiter and Laidlaw are both experienced captains and while Laidlaw is experiencing a resurgence at Gloucester, Cusiter’s has continued from last season since moving to Sale so he would edge it for me.
For me the likely choice would be Jonny Gray as it wouldn’t mean Cotter having to change plans too much. Gray/Gilchrist could be a second row pairing that lasts the next decade. Why bet one of them turns into Scotland’s Paul O’Connell when you could double down? Of course the best leader Scottish rugby has is another second row, Al Kellock; however he may well have played his last for Scotland.
Picking his protege for November could be a sound decision though.