It sounds a bit like a firm of solicitors, but the trio of two Sams Skinner and Johnson alongside the widely forecast inclusion of Blade Thomson will be the story of this latest edition of the Toony Tombola. They are the only uncapped players in the squad following a summer tour in which Townsend tried out a lot of younger talents.
We did think Townsend might call up an Exeter Chiefs lock but the utility second/back row Sam Skinner (23) wasn’t the name on everyone’s tongue; his father is from Ayr. Ollie Atkins also qualifies, but Skinner started Exeter’s European game against Munster while Atkins was on the bench. An easy choice to make?
Blade Thomson is in prime form for Scarlets and if he can overcome the injuries that stopped him following an initially impressive trajectory in New Zealand he could be just the sort of player Scotland has been crying out for at the back of the scrum.
The call up for Sam Johnson (25), the classy Warriors centre who recently qualified on residency, means no place for Nick Grigg this time around. Johnson has been out injured for a while but Dave Rennie said this week he is back in consideration for selection.
A big group of players who were rested in the summer also come back in: Alex Dunbar, Jonny Gray, Huw Jones, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Willem Nel, Gordon Reid, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Ryan Wilson and Hamish Watson. Oh, and 110-cap Ross Ford is back. Will he add to them?
Making a mockery of our predictions earlier in the week, he’s opted for four scrum-halves, thereby side-stepping the issue of what to do with Henry Pyrgos. It’s a big group – 40 strong – which will need some chopping down before Japan, but there are also a host of top line stars out injured who will come back into consideration: Stuart Hogg, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray and John Barclay chief among them. If Thomson does become indispensable at Number 8 then it’ll make competition for that 6 shirt even trickier…
The missing names do however highlight a lack of experience in a lot of areas – Laidlaw and Ford are the only players on 50+ caps.
At least with Glasgow you knew who Townsend was picking his tombola from, this is a lot more fun!
Here’s a possible Scotland team (not taking into account Wales availability issues): Kinghorn, Seymour, Jones, Dunbar, Maitland, Russell, Laidlaw; Dell, McInally (capt), Nel, J Gray, Toolis, Bradbury, Watson, Thomson.
Replacements: Brown, Allan, Berghan, Gilchrist, Wilson, G Horne, Hastings, Fife.
Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps
Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 10 caps
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh) – 4 caps
Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 34 caps
Allan Dell (Edinburgh) – 13 caps
David Denton (Leicester Tigers) – 42 caps
Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 cap
Ross Ford (Edinburgh) – 110 caps
Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 25 caps
Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 43 caps
Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors) – 20 caps
Murray McCallum (Edinburgh) – 3 caps
Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) – 18 caps
Willem Nel (Edinburgh) – 22 caps
Gordon Reid (London Irish) – 32 caps
Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) – 2 caps
Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) – uncapped
Blade Thomson (Scarlets) – uncapped
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) – 12 caps
George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 5 caps
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 20 caps
Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 37 caps
Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 28 caps
Dougie Fife (Edinburgh) – 8 caps
Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons) – 4 caps
Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 2 caps
Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 35 caps
Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 16 caps
Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps
Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 5 caps
Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne) – 63 caps
Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 34 caps
Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) – 5 caps
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 17 caps
Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh) – 27 caps
Finn Russell (Racing 92) – 37 caps
Matt Scott (Edinburgh) – 39 caps
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 43 caps
Not considered through injury: John Barclay, Mark Bennett, Lewis Carmichael (all Edinburgh), Cornell du Preez (Worcester Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Toulouse), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens).
Darcy Graham and Luke Crosbie have also been invited to train with the squad.