Well, we knew who wouldn’t be in it: Duncan Weir, Duncan Taylor, Chris Fusaro, Tyrone Holmes, Adam Ashe and Grant Gilchrist are all out injured. Some would be missed more than others, while Rob Harley and Stuart Hogg were iffy but probably not long-term wounded and likely to train.
Still, never mind we’ve got Kelly Brown and John Barclay in blinding form, and yes we’re “building for the future” but, well, it is a World Cup year and your contract only lasts till next summer anyway, so no sense in starting anew and not finishing the job without a couple of credible results, right Vern?
Big Vern’s going all out for plucky underdog-hood, with a squad that throws out even more bathwater (Cusiter, Beattie, Lawson, Kellock are absent, although the first two are the only surprises) in favour of blooding yet more unknown quantities.
We’ve grown to love Blair Cowan (some of us) but the rise of flanker Hugh Blake is ludicrously rapid. The next McCaw he may be, but that would make him still a Kiwi given he’s played more rugby there than in even an Edinburgh shirt, reaching the, um, heights of the Highlanders wider training squad.
Rumours of a Killer B/Scott Johnson spat continue to circulate, doing the camp no favours and perhaps diminishing the perception of Cotter as his own man. Hamish Watson, at least will get a real chance to challenge Cowan for the 7 shirt and prove Scotland can produce 7s of our own, while 6 is less clear cut without Brown in the mix and Harley’s fitness a question. Strokosch is the plucky survivor from the old guard who looks likely to earn a few more caps. With Beattie and Ashe both out, Denton looks the clear choice at 8 – in fact the only one, which is dangerously unbalanced considering the way Scotland played in the Autumn with clear momentum from their 8.
Right up front Ryan Grant has also been omitted (along with Ryan Wilson maybe?) leaving Welsh, Cross and Murray fighting to partner in-form Al Dickinson alongside Ford or Fraser Brown.
In the backs lie far fewer surprises with the welcome return of Matt Scott and Mark Bennett giving at least 3 exciting combinations and Pete Horne as cover in the centres, Tonks a welcome choice who can cover 15 or 10 and on the wing Tommy Seymour who will be itching to transfer his form to the international stage.
Possible XV: Hogg, Maitland, Bennett, Dunbar, Seymour, Russell, Laidlaw; Dickinson, Ford, Cross, Gray, Gray, Harley, Cowan, Denton, bench: Reid, Brown, Welsh, Toolis, Strokosch, Pyrgos, Tonks, Scott/Lamont
Can you put together a team from this lot to beat France in Paris, England at Twickers, or Ireland anywhere?
SCOTLAND 2015 RBS 6 NATIONS SQUAD:
FORWARDS: Hugh Blake (Edinburgh Rugby), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan, Geoff Cross (both London Irish), David Denton, Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Rob Harley, Euan Murray, Gordon Reid (all Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Ben Toolis, Hamish Watson (both Edinburgh Rugby), Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors).
BACKS: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby), Alex Dunbar, (Glasgow Warriors) Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne (both Glasgow Warriors) Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Gloucester), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell (all Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Tonks, Tim Visser (both Edinburgh Rugby).
Unavailable through injury: Adam Ashe (neck), Chris Fusaro (ankle), Grant Gilchrist (arm), Tyrone Holmes (face), Ruaridh Jackson (knee), Duncan Taylor (hamstring), Duncan Weir (arm).