News in from France this week: Greig Laidlaw is injured, with a fractured ankle.
The scrum-half is expected to be out for 10-12 weeks which should put him in line for a return before the Six Nations, but the time he spends on the sidelines will be only slightly less game time than he is getting at the moment via the Clermont bench.
If you are Ali Price you’ll be thinking, excellent: a chance to play the finest the Pacific Islands have to offer. Either that or you just filled your pants at the prospect, but Price is probably gallus enough not to worry about that sort of thing.
With the news from the Scarlets that most recent Scotland captain John Barclay is struggling in his recovery from a head knock under HIA return-to-play protocols, for everyone else things are starting to look a little worrying on the leadership front. November isn’t that far away, and Scotland aren’t just swimming in leadership figures for three potentially very difficult fixtures against Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
When he announces his squad on Monday, head coach Gregor Townsend would be within his rights to say: “look, my two top guys are injured so this will be on a game by game basis and don’t read too much into it”. He may not name a captain for all three games, especially if Barclay is touch and go – he saw a specialist this week and is reportedly back in training.
Where might Toony turn next?
Stuart Hogg – he’s almost guaranteed to be on the team sheet even though he plays his first game of the season against Leinster. History shows Gavin Hastings can lead from fullback and Hogg doesn’t even really need to worry about kicking his goals, as most of them are long range Hail-Mary types. Hogg tends to lead by example with his swashbuckling runs and is now one of the senior figures in the team both for Glasgow and Scotland, with a sackful of caps and two Lions tours (one and a bit anyway) under his belt. His issue will be form – he’ll need all the precious moments he can find to get back to top form if we’re to have a chance. He could be captain, but with just a handful of games left to get match sharp, now is perhaps not the time to put more on his plate.
Johnny Gray – if I were a bookie he’d be my favourite. Toolis showed enough on the summer tour to mean he’s now a genuine test player, and Gray’s slow start to the season might make Jonny no longer the automatic pick if, say, Gilchrist hits a hot streak. But with Richie out that’s a lot of hypothetical to worry about. He’s almost certain to be in the team and if Barclay isn’t fit he’ll be there or thereabouts.
Ryan Wilson – Wilson always shows plenty of grit but is still not guaranteed a spot in the backrow. Clubmates Rob Harley, Adam Ashe and Jamie Ritchie of Edinburgh are playing well enough to be in the squad discussion for who plays 6 or 8 but Wilson’s chances do improve if John Barclay’s condition doesn’t. There is also the possibility of a bolter like Northampton’s Mitch Eadie making the squad or Josh Strauss returning which increases the odds further. The news yesterday that John Hardie has been suspended for unknown reasons does reduce the competition a little, with Magnus Bradbury another backrow challenger likely to sit this one out. Captain Wilson wouldn’t be universally popular out here in the world even if he seems to be winning round Dave Rennie and the Warrior Nation. If he can keep the head and not drift out of games as he has done on occasion at international level – but rarely does now for Glasgow – then he would do a decent job.
Ross Ford – another controversial figure at SRBlog Towers, Fordy has massive experience and has captained Scotland before. The form hooker Fraser Brown has been dogged by injury so far and is now out for 8 weeks with a knee injury so the hooker shirt is all but Fordy’s which at least means he’ll be on the park. Never one to react well to complacency or a lack of challenge, if you want a lead by example kind of guy is quiet Ross really the man for the job?
Grant Gilchrist – the Edinburgh second row was a Vern Cotter favourite although injury denied him a chance to repay that faith. He was anointed as leadership material by big Vern but will be battling hard with Toolis for the other second row shirt. Like Gray, he was a co-captain last season but not under the new coaching regime.
Henry Pyrgos – also leadership material and has plenty of experience but he’s some distance behind Price at the moment. Hank could well have to fill the Laidlaw closer role from the bench.
Finn Russell – only joking. Finn has enough fizzing round his head.
My choice? I’d go with Gray, or Hogg if he breezes through the Leinster game.
Or we could #prayforbarcs.
UPDATE: Following Glasgow’s loss to Leinster, the squad announcement has been delayed until Tuesday to account for injuries.