As a last little summary, it is maybe helpful to look at the squad I’ve picked as an overall group, and also reflect on some of the feedback on Twitter and in the comments based on the selection. If you’re thinking “what about INSERT NAME” take a look at parts I and II for position by position discussions, links are below at the end. Following that lengthy process, here is the complete group:
Rory Sutherland, Jamie Bhatti, Alex Allan, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Simon Berghan, Murray McCallum.
Stuart McInally, George Turner, Neil Cochrane.
Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis, Lewis Carmichael.
John Barclay (capt), Hamish Watson, Cornell du Preez, Luke Hamilton, Jamie Ritchie, Rob Harley, David Denton.
Ali Price, Ben Vellacott, George Horne
Finn Russell, Pete Horne
Alex Dunbar, Huw Jones, Duncan Taylor, Chris Harris, Matt Scott
Stuart Hogg, Blair Kinghorn, Tommy Seymour, Byron McGuigan, Lee Jones
As usual, I forgot a few names in the overall discussion: sorry Greig “Folau Killer” Tonks and Ryan Grant. We’ve also had updates this week on a few of the props: Allan Dell is expected end of February. Darryl Marfo and Al Dickinson are out indefinitely, although Marfo’s does not require surgery it’s more a bit of a mystery that just needs to heal.
Rather than focusing on individual positions which I did in the last two parts, looking at it overall shows the usual picture: we’d be in good shape in the First XV but things get a bit iffy thereafter.
There is a blend of youth and experience although some of that experience (Denton, Welsh) has not been at the heart of recent squads. Leadership in the team could again be an issue if games get tight but the rise of Stuart McInally is extremely helpful in that regard. There is also a flexibility of approach in most positions although all the half-back pairings are designed for speed, and attack, which is as it should be.
The other thing not really considered is backup goal kickers. If Finn was to be injured, you are looking at Hogg, Kinghorn or either Horne as cover and of those, Pete Horne and Hogg are the most likely to be in the match day squad.
I would say that most of the names you’d expect to see in the first XV are in this group (save maybe Maitland and Laidlaw) but I fully expect that Townsend will pick a slightly different squad group, perhaps taking Jackson and Grigg instead of Kinghorn and Scott. I now also think it is unlikely we’ll see Vellacott get the call and Henry Pyrgos or Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (I’d choose the latter) will be in there. The wing picks could go down to the wire on form with a lot of Visser fans out there – is Toony one of them?
There could also be a few “who?” selections too. Vellacott – for some who are less knowledgeable than you good people – will fill that role, but I’d consider myself reasonably switched on (on a good day) and had no idea about Chris Harris and Luke Hamilton. Who else might the exiles system have unearthed that Townsend wants to bed in before RWC 2019?
I’d suggest calling up a few names to the camp for training slots (club commitments permitting) such as Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Magnus Bradbury – and Kinghorn if he doesn’t make the full squad – and as I mentioned before if Laidlaw’s about but not fit for matches, bring him on board in a mentor role. Ryan Wilson is another perennial favourite who may make it back to fitness in time.
Possible Scotland 23 to face Wales in Cardiff
Aside from the wings, the backline and large chunks of the pack pretty much picks itself. We’re going to appear weak in the front row, especially on the bench, but you could argue that was the case in the autumn too. Number 8 and the props aside it is a reasonably settled first XV following on from the autumn.
The bench is where there is real thinking had to be done. I’d be happy with Gordy Reid, Richie Gray, Cornell du Preez or even Greig Laidlaw appearing if he was fit, but I’m sure there are few in here we can debate in the comments. Tim Visser or Sean Maitland might perhaps swap in for either wing, although pre-Lions dropping Tommy Seymour would have seemed unthinkable.
Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Byron McGuigan, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Jon Welsh, Ben Toolis, Jonny Gray, Hamish Watson, John Barclay (capt), David Denton.
Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Murray McCallum, Grant Gilchrist, Luke Hamilton, Ben Vellacott, Pete Horne, Duncan Taylor.
As usual, the Scotland management team will confound our deliberations with the real squad announcement which is expected on Tuesday.