The final squad for the World Cup – or at least the first version until injuries strike – will be announced tomorrow. Here is our take on it:
Scottish Rugby Blog predicted final 31 man squad (changes in bold):
Dickinson, Grant, Nel, Reid, Welsh, Brown, Ford, McInally, Harley, J. Gray, R. Gray, Gilchrist, Barclay, Hardie, Cowan, Denton, Strauss
Hildago-Clyne, Laidlaw, Pyrgos, Russell, Jackson, Bennett, Scott, Dunbar, Horne, Hogg, Seymour, Maitland, Lamont, Visser.
Sneaking Oan The Bus
Matt Scott – Half an hour for Scott showed the extra power/heft he brings in attack. That’s definitely something the Scotland management are looking for and with Horne tweaking a knee and Scott looking sharper with each game, he’s snuck in. Confusion over Dunbar undoubtedly helps.
John Barclay – He had a stormer, scoring a try, nicking a penalty turnover and generally throwing himself about. Given he could play anywhere across the back row and the question mark was perhaps form or ability to fit in, his case for inclusion is now very strong indeed.
Mebbies Aye, Mebbies Naw
Jim Hamilton – Depending on the second row/back row mix selected. Jim’s the fourth second row but Vern might only take 3 with Rob Harley as cover. Given the maul problems we’ve had there’s a definite case for a specialist second row, especially as there could be two hookers (and a centre) that could also cover back row.
Al Strokosch – if there is an 18/13 split instead of the one we’ve predicted, Big Jim or the Stroker are most likely to come in, with out-and-out blindsides largely absent from the party. Ryan Wilson is a definite possibility also.
Greig Tonks – If Vern opts for just 2 scrum halves and doesn’t want another forward, Tonks is the most likely beneficiary as a utility back.
Richie Vernon – Could still get a look in depending on the Dunbar injury situation and would probably be the unluckiest if he does miss out.
Sean Maitland – Still a big question mark over his fitness and form but unlike Dunbar, short of the latter since the 2013 Lions tour. If he does go, he’ll need to play in Paris to avoid developing a mysterious “injury” that ends his campaign before it begins as surely the squad can’t carry two such players.
Awf the bus
Adam Ashe – Ashe didn’t play, John Barclay had a stormer. Strauss went well enough for Glasgow over in Canada and Dave Denton offloaded. Twice. The management are looking for players to step up; some have, and some haven’t.
Duncan Weir – When you see the high tempo, zippy attacking line stuff that Bennett Hogg and Horne run outside Russell, Weir just doesn’t seem like an option. Despite offering a second way if things get tight, Horne or Jackson would prove more suitable stand-in stand-offs for Vern’s plan A, and bring versatility also.
Hugh Blake – Still no more game time. Still no massive sense he’s for the chop. We’d be very surprised if he made the final squad now though with Wilson and Barclay both putting their cases strongly on Saturday while Blake watched from the stands.
Additional reporting by Cameron Black