The Premiership returns on Friday as Harlequins take on Sale Sharks in the first of seven fixtures this weekend which are all live to watch on BT Sport. The league is very much marmite for the average Scottish Rugby fan but there’s no doubt that a certain Mr Townsend will be watching the Scottish qualified players in the league closely and if you want to impress your mates in the pub (at a distance of course) with your knowledge of who’s who in English rugby when you are discussing bolters for the upcoming Scotland squad here’s a rundown of pretty much all* of them.
*Not legally binding.
Three out of the four Scots (Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner) playing at Sandy Park are guaranteed regular game time I’d imagine and equally are all certainties in any Scotland squad. The odd one out is Sam Hidalgo Clyne who joined the club in February after a series of short term deals with Harlequins, Racing 92 and Lyon. There’s no doubt he has potential to be back in Scotland colours if he makes a go of this move, but even with the departure of Nic White, who was the regular scrum half starter, there are 7 scrum halves at Exeter who will all fancy stepping up.
Sharks are a bit light on Scots. In the main squad there is Byron McGuigan who will be hoping to continue to be selected in the international squad but his job has probably got just a little harder with the surely soon to be capped Duhan Van Der Merwe becoming Scots qualified right about now. In his favour Sean Maitland is soon to be playing 2nd division rugby with Saracens and Tommy Seymour has retired from International rugby.
Ewan Ashman is highly rated and was a standout for Scotland under 20’s as a hooker with a keen eye for a try. He is currently in Sale’s academy.
Scrum half Gus Warr is also on Sales’ books and represented Scotland at U18 but has gone on to represent England at U20’s level.
Mitch Eadie is Bristol’s only SQ player with the departure of Nathan Chamberlain to Edinburgh and Luke Hamilton to Agen.
The former Scotland U20 flanker is now 28 and is starting a second spell at the Bears following a period at Northampton Saints. With the seeming embarrassment of riches in the back row that Scotland have available it’s unlikely he’ll be called on but Nick Haining was older when he made his Scotland debut so never say never.
Gordon Reid came and went at Franklins Gardens amongst much fanfare but Covid put paid to any chance of him actually playing for the club leaving centre Rory Hutchinson as the sole Scot at Northampton and despite missing out on World Cup selection and being sparingly used in Scotland’s Six Nations campaign thus far he’s bound to make the next selection and we will hopefully see a bit more of him in dark blue.
Wasps scrum half Ben Vellacott is one of those ‘will he/won’t he’ Scotland selections and it’s starting to look like it’s more a case of missing the boat as Scotland are well served by Ali Price, George Horne, Henry Pyrgos and a raft of up and coming scrummies like Jamie Dobie and Charlie Shiel not to mention that other potentially reluctant Scot, Finlay Christie, in New Zealand.
Former Scotland U20’s tighthead Jack Owlett is also on Wasps roster but rarely makes the match day squad.
There are three SQ players in Wasps academy, full back Cameron Anderson, loosehead Alex Pleasants and tighthead Ben Onyeama Christie.
Bath have no senior squad Scots. They have one lonely SQ player in their academy in the form of back rower Oli Cattell.
Inside centre James Lang is probably Harlequins best known Scot and back in 2018 picked up two caps for Scotland on the tour to Canada but he flits in and out of their match day squads and in the season to date second row Glen Young has been the more regular Saltire waving representative in the starting line-up.
Former Scotland U20’s and London Irish scrum half, Scott Steele, joined Harlequins in July and will no doubt be vying with Danny Care for the starting 9 berth.
Allan Dell is more of a regular for Scotland than he has been for Irish and frequently has to settle for a spot on the bench for his club. His Scotland place could very well be in jeopardy in the near future with Rory Sutherland coming to the fore and Oli Kebble and now Pierre Schoeman becoming Scots qualified.
Blair Cowan is 34 now and his Scotland days are behind him but he is still doing the business for his club having played in 12 of their 13 games before lockdown.
Chris Harris is the senior Scot at Gloucester and a regular since his move from Newcastle. It’s hard to imagine Townsend not selecting him going forward despite the brickbats pointed at him by sections of the Scotland faithful.
Second row Alex Craig was selected for his first senior Scotland squad at the start of this year’s Six Nations and was playing regularly for the club so will be hoping that progression continues.
Age grade Scotland players, Lock Harry Butler and scrum half Charlie Chapman are in the Gloucester academy but have a few first team appearances between them in the last season.
What can we say about Duncan Weir? Just when we thought it was all over up he pops for a two minute cameo against France in March. With Finn to return and Hastings accelerated by his absence that may be it now but who’d bet against him. One things guaranteed though he’ll be proving us all wrong week in week out in Worcester colours.
Cornell Du Preez was back in the Scotland squad at the start of this year following a two year absence which was in part enforced due to the horrific injury he sustained to his larynx in 2018. I’m unsure he will feature too much going forward however as there may just be better options at 8 now.
Hooker Isaac Miller who represented Scotland U20’s in 2014 is also a Worcester player but has only a handful of first team appearance to his name. It’s a similar story for flanker Tom Dodd whose U20’s time was in in 2017.
It’s been a tumultuous time for Leicester Tigers. Saved from probable relegation by the Saracens scandal and then at the centre of a pay dispute that saw several high profile players quit the club. It’s been equally tumultuous for Matt Scott who having been curiously denied a new contract at Edinburgh found himself unemployed until Tigers came calling. It looks like he will be a starter so may be able to drag himself back into Scotland reckoning.
Jake Kerr gained a solitary Scotland cap in 2019 amidst a hooker injury crisis but is regular at Leicester albeit former England and British and Irish Lions England hooker Tom Youngs is unsurprisingly first choice. Scotland’s first three hookers pretty much pick themselves as it stands so it may need another crisis for Kerr to return to the fold.
Second row Cameron Henderson is in the Welford Rd development squad.
As we all know Saracens are exiting the premiership due to financial irregularities (to use a popular euphemism) and some of their big name players have negotiated transfers or season long loans in expectation of a quick return. One of the beneficiaries of those departures is former Edinburgh lock Callum Hunter-Hill whose loan at Saracens was made permanent.
All of a sudden there seems like a significant number of promising Scotland locks on the go but I’d still anticipate Hunter-Hill’s exposure to the positive side of his Saracens sojourn to bring benefits in the long run.
A more unlikely recipient is former Glasgow lock Tim Swinson who has aborted his announced retirement from the game to play a season in the Championship with Saracens.
Long standing Allianz Park residents Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor will remain at the club and it will be interesting to see what winning by a cricket score on a regular basis does for their competitiveness and Scotland prospects.