The back selections largely take care of themselves once you take injuries into account but there is still a fair bit to chew over in the pack. The Six Nations was bad and good in equal measure, but the way that the pack got Finn Russell on the front foot in the second half at Twickenham showed the way.
As before this is picked based largely on the Six Nations but includes availability and form up to the European quarter-finals.
Picking a group of 17 forwards is harder than it was in
Much to my relief, Allan Dell has pinned down the loosehead shirt, finally. Despite not getting many starts for Edinburgh he’s done enough during the Six Nations to make this an easy choice and his scrummaging is far less of a concern than it has been.
It’s less clear who his backups are, and it looked like Alex Allan and Jamie Bhatti until Gordon Reid got the nod for the final game of the Championship which sneaks him on the plane.
I’m hoping for a late-season charge by Alex Allan, but it will depend on
Selected: Allan Dell, Gordon Reid, Jamie Bhatti
Unlucky to miss out: Alex Allan, Rory Sutherland
Selected: Willem Nel, Simon Berghan, Zander Fagerson
Unlucky to miss out: Murray McCallum D’Arcy Rae
Last time out both Fraser Brown and George Turner had picked up injuries and we were stretched pretty thin behind Stuart McInally. With Turner sitting out the rest of the season to recover from
Selected: Stuart McInally, Fraser Brown, Ross Ford
Unlucky to miss out: Jake Kerr, George Turner (
Last time out, I wrote: “I am hopeful that this selection will be trickier in March”.
Okay, so it is April as I type this, but things are definitely trickier.
Sam Skinner did enough at 6 to suggest he’s become a
Richie Gray has finally reappeared for Toulouse and was a key part of their 14-man comeback over Finn Russell’s Racing92 in their Heineken Cup Quarter-Final. As Scotland’s most dynamic lock he has to go if he’s fit.
There are young locks like Scott Cummings and Callum Hunter-Hill coming through but they are short on opportunities until the next international window lifts the roadblocks to
Which brings us to the big question – which two out of Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist or Jonny Gray do you take? The previously undroppable Gray Jnr’s form hasn’t been great for a while now and while the second rows in ChaosRugbyTM are often restricted to a set piece and tackling brief – a role he does very well – the difference it makes when Toolis and Gilchrist actually do some carrying is huge for Edinburgh and Scotland. Unfortunately for my sanity, Jonny had a huge performance for Glasgow at the weekend so he has sneaked back in, just. This is the only draft of this piece where I’ve picked him: another U-Turn!
Selected: Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Sam Skinner
Unlucky to miss out: Ben
I was looking for star-making performances and while we didn’t see anything on Bill Mata’s level of back row play from our lads during the Six Nations, both of his Edinburgh teammates Magnus Bradbury (vs England) and Jamie Ritchie (most of the other games) had some very good moments.
Although he played no part in the Six Nations, John Barclay is now back and looking sharp for Edinburgh so he eases the worries a little especially with Ryan Wilson still out (as are David Denton, Blade Thomson and Luke Hamilton). He’s the outstanding candidate for skipper too.
Adam Ashe and John Hardie are fit and playing and were selected last time, but didn’t get a look in during the Six Nations. Matt Fagerson is another one who is close to selection but the extra weight Bradbury put on during his injury recovery really has turned him into a solid customer and he looks to have nudged ahead. Like Jonny Gray, Fagerson was another who had a strong showing for Glasgow but I’m sticking to my guns this time.
Later in the
Selected: Hamish Watson, John Barclay, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Josh Strauss.
Unlucky to miss out: Ryan Wilson (
So here is my complete squad based on who’s available and dropping a back from part I through necessity, sorry Kyle:
14 13): George Horne, Ali Price, Greig Laidlaw; Finn Russell, Adam Hastings; Pete Horne, Chris Harris, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson; Darcy Graham, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Kyle Steyn, Stuart Hogg.
Forwards (18): Allan Dell, Gordon Reid, Jamie Bhatti; WP Nel, Simon Berghan, Zander Fagerson; Stuart McInally, Fraser Brown, Ross Ford; Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Sam Skinner; Hamish Watson, John Barclay (capt), Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury, Josh Strauss.
How it looks (forwards): Pretty healthy, I’d say. With 18 spots to fill there is really only debate in my mind over one loosehead spot and that final back row spot, although Jonny Gray is lucky.
If Townsend goes for a 17/14 split as Vern did then he’d tie himself in knots without any props who can cover both sides. Blade Thomson may come into Townsend’s thinking but might it come too late for him to slot into the systems ahead of say squad stalwart
How it could look: I can only really see a change in that final back row slot. Could be Blade Thomson, more likely to be Ryan Wilson.
As usual I am sure there will be healthy debate below.
Depending on when the final squad is announced, I’ll take another look at the whole group at the end of the season.