Back in July after the summer tour, Gav revised a prospective Scotland World Cup squad he’d drawn up based on his previous musings in that area. Now that the big man has moved on to pastures new as editor of SCRUM Magazine (the boy done good and we wish him well) this particular chalice falls to me to sip from going forward into 2019. Here is my current thinking, leaving out long-term injured and based on recent performances and selections. I’m also adjusting the balance to a 17/14 split as in 2015.
Despite the endless debate he generates on these pages, Greig Laidlaw remains nailed on for a squad place after an autumn as captain, but there are still potentially two spots up for grabs.
Despite arguments over the best starting pair, all three of Huw Jones, Pete Horne and Alex Dunbar are almost certain to travel. Which leaves Duncan Taylor (if he can get fit), Mark Bennett, James Lang, Chris Harris, Matt Scott and Nick Grigg fighting over one spot and it’s a lottery as to who would (or should) take it.
If he was fit, Taylor would be my first choice but I’m basing it on a squad if it was picked now, so it would look like Toony would probably take Chris Harris, who has the added versatility of playing on the wing (as could Jones). Mark Bennett could potentially do a job there but like Taylor will need to find form and fitness by then. Lang’s ability to cover standoff is less likely to be needed since the emergence of Adam Hastings, but it is the Toony Tombola after all… Nick Grigg is perhaps the next choice and back going well for the Warriors but (currently concussed) Matt Scott has done well since returning to Edinburgh and could yet make an appearance if his upswing in form continues.
Selected: Pete Horne, Alex Dunbar, Huw Jones, Chris Harris
Unlucky to miss out: Nick Grigg, Matt Scott, James Lang, Mark Bennett (inj) Duncan Taylor (inj).
Tommy Seymour, Sean Maitland and Blair Kinghorn remain the front runners; pick 2 from 3 in your XV and you’d be okay, although Kinghorn still needs a run of games at this level to justify a pick in the crunch games. It’s a shame as he is so good at fullback for Edinburgh, who also have plenty of wingers so he’s unlikely to get tried out of position as a favour to Toony.
One name we have added to the mix given his club form and a November squad call-up is Darcy Graham and he puts pressure on Lee Jones and Byron McGuigan for the remaining back three spot. Based on the pretty limited evidence of the autumn it would be McGuigan who goes over Jones, but the next time we look at this I’d hope Graham was truly in the mix.
Selected: Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour, Blair Kinghorn, Byron McGuigan
Unlucky to miss out: Lee Jones, Darcy Graham, Dougie Fife
In March and in July Stuart Hogg was a dead cert and this continues even after an Autumn where we thought his ankle injury would be a problem. He recovered from that in record time to play in all three home games and looked back to his lively best against South Africa. Long term-cover is still an issue (Kinghorn the most probably) but will likely come from one of the wingers, all of whom have played at the back.
Selected: Stuart Hogg
Unlucky to miss out: no-one, really.
Scotland Backs (14): George Horne, Ali Price, Greig Laidlaw; Finn Russell, Adam Hastings; Alex Dunbar, Pete Horne, Huw Jones, Chris Harris; Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour, Blair Kinghorn, Byron McGuigan, Stuart Hogg.
Next week: the forwards.
If you can, keep discussions to the backs selection please on this post – Ed.