With just over a week to go until the Autumn Test series gets underway, the front row appears to be where Vern Cotter will have his biggest headaches.
With Edinburgh pair Rory Sutherland and WP Nel already ruled out of the series, and Alastair Dickinson included in the squad despite not having played since the tour to Japan, Alex Allan has today joined the squad as “precautionary injury cover.”
The former Edinburgh man was perhaps unlucky to miss out on the original squad, Allan Dell originally preferred as back-up to Gordon Reid, but to call up Allan 10 days away from the series opener against Australia suggests serious concerns over Dickinson’s fitness.
There’s no doubt the Wallabies’ scrum has improved but Nel and Dickinson made mincemeat of it in the World Cup. A more pressing issue could be getting the 58-cap loosehead veteran Dickinson ready for the November 19 battle with Argentina, who will travel with one of world rugby’s most feared scrums.
It has to be assumed that Gordon Reid will don the number 1 jersey for the Wallabies clash next Saturday, but it now looks increasingly likely that the uncapped Dell or one-cap Allan may back him up from the bench.
The tighthead side is no less of a concern, with Moray Low being used as a loosehead by his club side, Exeter Chiefs, in recent weeks and not playing much first team rugby – Low has played in just 3 matches so far this season, 2 in Europe.
That means Low is short of match practice on his preferred side, but the former Glasgow Warrior does have a wealth of experience, including 34 caps for his county.
Zander Fagerson struggled on his Test bow against England in the Six Nations, but he has bounced back well with Glasgow this year and will be pushing for a starting place.
Given the lack of Test experience among the likely reserve loosehead and at hooker, with Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally sharing just 26 caps and five starts between them, may mean Fagerson is handed his first Test start against the Wallabies, with Low providing cover from the bench.
Cotter has also to ponder the make-up of his centre pairing and wingers to join Stuart Hogg in the back-three, or whether he selects Tim Swinson or Grant Gilchrist on the bench, but the front-row is sure to give him plenty of headaches before the team is announced in a week’s time.
Expect Reid and Fagerson, the Glasgow Warriors props, to start against the Wallabies, with Low and Dell providing the back-up.