Centre has been an area of strength in recent years for Scotland but the Conveyor Belt shows there are likely to significant developments after the next World Cup.
The Conveyor Belt
2019 RWC squad
Sam Johnson, Chris Harris, Duncan Taylor and Peter Horne
Looking ahead to the 2023 RWC
Arguably, Scotland’s centre options reached their apotheosis across 2016, 2017 and early 2018 with Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne, Huw Jones, Matt Scott and Duncan Taylor all at or near their peak. Since then the key developments have been Sam Johnson becoming Scottish qualified; the rebalancing of the side’s focus between defence and attack and the emergence of Chris Harris; and Cameron Redpath opting for the thistle rather than the red rose.
Things look reasonably well set at inside centre with Johnson and Redpath out in front and solidly backed up by the likes of James Lang and Rory Hutchinson. The big questions hanging over selection in two and a half year’s time are really to do with outside centre and Chris Harris in particular. The defensive linchpin will be nearly 33 by the time of the tournament. If he’s not an option then Huw Jones could step in – but that would have a significant impact on the dynamic in defence and attack.
Fraser Dingwall could provide another option at 13 but that would require stepping on Eddie Jones’s toes again and pinching a player who skippered England at u20 level and was in their full Six Nations’s squad in 2020 – although he remains uncapped. Quite simply there doesn’t look to be another player like Harris on the horizon so it’s likely that the Scottish coaches will need to tweak things slightly to reflect the personnel available.
Most likely to be capped for the first time this summer:
George Taylor. The centre has played 30 times for Edinburgh across the last two seasons after really making his breakthrough at the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign.
2023 RWC squad (speculative)
Cameron Redpath, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson and Matt Currie
2024 and beyond…
With the top half of the Conveyor Belt almost certain to be out of contention for selection at the 2027 World Cup, attention will need to turn to the group further down the bottom half. There is plenty of potential there and Cameron Redpath already cracking the full Scotland setup at 21 has opened up the possibilities for some real continuity across the next two RWCs.
If Scotland are looking for slightly bigger, more physical centres then Gregor Townsend is likely to keep an eye on Glasgow and the development of Stafford McDowall and Sione Tuipulotu as 16 stone plus options. There’s a pretty massive contrast in height mind you with McDowall six inches taller than the Warriors’ new signing Tuipulotu!
Along the M8, Matt Currie has only just turned 20 but could well find himself as a first team regular for Edinburgh next season. A link-up with George Taylor as a 12/13 combo could future-proof the capital club’s centre stocks for a number of years.
Both Glasgow and Edinburgh’s academies look well set in the midfield. The Warriors will be looking for Michael Gray and Connor de Bruyn to come through. Edinburgh have Scott King alongside Currie in their system. King and de Bruyn are both in the Scotland u20s training squad for this summer’s Six Nations. That tournament should be essential viewing for anyone interested in the progress being made by some of these young fellas.
Other options for 2027:
Jordan Venter (19.1) – Edinburgh. If he sticks around at Edinburgh, Venter will be Scottish qualified in time for the 2026 Six Nations, not long before he turns 24.
Tom Lanni – (19) Ayrshire Bulls. Another from the production line of Sedbergh School (see also Murray Redpath, Ollie Melville, Rhys Tait and Cameron Redpath) he’s a powerful looking prospect in midfield.
2027 RWC squad (highly speculative)
Cameron Redpath, Matt Currie, Michael Gray and Tom Lanni