Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland Training Squad for Tonga Test

Ali Price
2021 British & Irish Lions Tour To South Africa British & Irish Lions Squad Training, Jersey, United Kingdom 17/6/2021 Ali Price Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Gregor Townsend has today named a 36-man squad for a two-day training camp ahead of the first game of the 2021 Autumn Nations Series. The squad is without English and French based players who are unavailable for the first game against Tonga. The group of players who are yet to be included has some big names in it that may well mean further shuffling next week, including Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Adam Hastings, Jonny Gray, Huw Jones and Worcester pair Rory Sutherland and Duhan Van Der Merwe. There are plenty others, with the list of additions to make up the full squad announced next Wednesday.

The group announced today features 19 players from the 2021 Scotland summer squad which was unable to play its three scheduled matches due to Covid-19. Home-based British and Irish Lions Ali Price, Hamish Watson and Zander Fagerson do feature, as does Mark Bennett who was last capped in 2018 – but hasn’t started a test for Scotland since 2016.

Townsend has also brought in four new faces: three forwards and a back. Edinburgh Rugby forwards Pierre Schoeman – now qualified on residency – and Marshall Sykes are joined by midfield back Charlie Savala in the training group, along with Cell C Sharks loose-forward Dylan Richardson who qualifies for Scotland through his father, who was born in Edinburgh. The 22 year-old flanker has started two URC matches this season having lined up against Munster in the opening round and Glasgow Warriors in round two and was part of the matchday 23 for the South African team’s third-round win against Ospreys.

Ben Vellacott and Cammy Hutchinson are perhaps unlucky to miss out at this stage but there is a reshuffle ahead for sure and the list of backs is pretty inexperienced, it is possible there wasn’t room for them at this stage. Jaco van der Walt is another odd one given the lack of options at standoff. Richie Gray, Simon Berghan, Scott Cummings also miss out (Berghan and Cummings are injured).

Scotland Autumn Nations Training Squad (categories ours)

Loose Forwards
Matt Fagerson
Nick Haining
Hamish Watson
Rory Darge – uncapped
Dylan Richardson – uncapped
Jamie Ritchie
Luke Crosbie – uncapped

Grant Gilchrist
Jamie Hodgson – uncapped
Rob Harley
Marshall Sykes – uncapped

Zander Fagerson
Oli Kebble
Murray McCallum

George Turner
Fraser Brown
Stuart McInally

Pierre Schoeman – uncapped
Jamie Bhatti


We could break this down but honestly this will be a mish mash with players covering multiple positions. It looks like Kinghorn is being picked as a standoff though as we are very thin on experience there until the official test window opens.

Rufus McLean – uncapped
Damien Hoyland
Darcy Graham
Cole Forbes – uncapped
Sione Tuipulotu – uncapped
Mark Bennett
Matt Currie – uncapped
Sam Johnson
James Lang
Kyle Steyn
Jack Blain – uncapped

Blair Kinghorn
Ross Thompson – uncapped
Charlie Savala – uncapped

Ali Price
George Horne
Jamie Dobie – uncapped

Scotland play Tonga on the 30th October.

20 Responses

  1. No Vellacott?!? Dobie appears to be playing better than Horne and Price is a returning lion so Horne should drop out to allow Velacott to come along.

    1. Given the fact that the squad will change anyway after the Tonga game, I would have picked Vellacott over Price (who hasn’t played for a couple of months). To be honest I would have picked Vellacott over any of the Glasgow 3.

  2. I’m also baffled by the absence of Ben Vellacott, he’s had a great start to the season and has looked a real threat with his pace. Perhaps Dobie is being given some experience for this opening game and will be replaced by Vellacott for Aus/SA. Also surprised Gray Snr is omitted, to me far more effective in the engine room than Rob Harley. Will be interesting to see if the likes of Ashmann, Bayliss and Dingwall get a look in when exiled players are added. Still concerned about our lack of depth at tight-head, not sure if McCallum is the answer and Kebble relatively untested there.

  3. I never expect Harley to play when he is called into squads these days. It is clear players are called in for the sake of training exercises and shape to arrange drills, seems to be the functionality Harley has served for a while.

    He is a horrible sod of a player, a known excellent trainer. I expect he is used by coaches as much to test others others these days and to just be Harleyish in training for the sake of intensity and to make rucks and lineouts as messy as possible to create problems that will need solved in games.

    The Tonga game should just be a B fixture and the squad reflects that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Velacott take over from Horne or Dobbie come the next squad.

  4. could Vellacott still be pondering what country he wants to play for, so cant be selected as a consequence?

    1. England doesn’t select players outside English clubs so he’s rules himself out regardless of whether Scotland select him or not.

    2. Vellacott seems to want to keep his EQP status so he can still move back to the Premiership if he doesn’t stay at Edinburgh. It’s not really about playing for England, just doesn’t want to jeopardise his career for one cap off the bench for Scotland. (see RugbyPass interview from 2019).
      There are some on this blog who would say they wouldn’t play him anyway if he’s not committed to the dark blue. There are also some who agree with the policy of capping players just to have them snagged.
      However with Ali Price (still only 28 and a Lion) and George Horne (the same age as Ben at 26) in the driving seats for #1 and #2, with Dobie the young up-and-coming replacement, who’s to say his choice his wrong?

      1. Well after he joined Edinburgh, he told interviewers one of the reasons was to put himself in Scotland contention after struggling for game time down south. I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t part of the discussion when Edinburgh signed him, that he would be available for Scotland selection.

        I think it is highly unlikely he’d turn down a place in a Scotland squad, but ultimately, he’s played three games for Edinburgh and has 3 incumbents ahead of him who all have some credit in the bank.

      2. Yeah given this is very much a training group for this game they might be keeping Dobie for long term experience. But might not see Vellacott swapped in next week either. It’s a mystery.

      3. Charlie Savala was an eyebrow raisers for me. Obviously, Finn and Hastings are with their clubs, but Savala has barely any gametime. Presumably he’ll be training but won’t see match action.

        RugbyPass has said comparisons have been drawn between him and Russell, but I can’t find out by whom. Perhaps it is just because until recently he was a labourer.

        Anyone know if Savala is actually any good?

      4. The issue is that Vellacott gives more off the bench than Horne.

        OK, Price has impressed me whilst on the Lions more than I thought he would but Vellacott has shown that he offers a different threat and at least deserves a chance.

        Horne has had a really bad deal, being given no game time of any note internationally, and IMHO just hasn’t kicked on from his early promise as a result.

        Maybe Vellacott is keeping his powder dry as a result – until someone finds out then it’s all speculation though…

  5. Does vellacott offer more of the bench than Horne though?? Horne averages a try every 84mins of rugby played, runs the best support lines of any of our 9’s and has some engine on him. For a wee man his defense is pretty good too. Box kicking could do with some work but he is a quality operator. Vellacott has played 3games for edinburgh after an injury hit last couple years with a lack of game time and consistency. Horne in the 23 every day of the week for me

    1. Fully agree wee troot. Vellacot has started well but he’s in a position where we are stacked, he offers much the same as Horne. Horne has not been at his very best this season particularly with box kicks but vellaott’s box kick’s haven’t been great either.

      Horne also has more European and international experience, he knows the Scotland game plan and has a pre-existing playing partnership with Ross Thompson who I’m sure will start at 10 against Tonga.

      I expected Vellacot to be in the squad initially with maybe Price or dobie sitting out but I always had Horne starting this Tonga game.

      Vellacott has a lot of ground to make up on the three he needs to keep playing well and show real consistency.

      1. Savala played the second half of the pre season warm up vs benetton. He was OK. Distributes quite nice but still very raw. I’m surprised he’s included in the squad especially given Jacko’s much improved MOM performance vs Stormers.

    2. Whilst not Horne’s fault, he isn’t getting any game time. Scoring tries when coming on for the last 10 mins when defences tiring isn’t the best stat.

      TBF, I do think he’s been poorly treated but he’s just not getting the experience his caps would suggest – plus Dobie appears to be playing better than him (haven’t watched the Glasgow games and just going off match reports though).

  6. 10 months before the last World Cup,4 autumn internationals,Townsend started laidlaw in every game and gave Price/Horne 10mins each.Granted, Horne not fit for first game.
    Townsend played scared and sends out his teams to play as if they are.Hoggy as captain?just a talisman to hide behind,as Laidlaw was.

    1. Not sure about that, Spindthrift.
      Ten months before the last RWC – 2018 Autumn Internationals. First up, Wales in Cardiff for the inaugural Doddie Weir Cup, Horne came on for Laidlaw with 17 minutes to go.
      Next up – we demolished Fiji and George Horne came on for Laidlaw at 61′. Laidlaw had a stormer with two try assists.
      Then against South Africa it was a close game and this time it is Price who comes on for Laidlaw (at 63′).
      Only in the last test (where we just beat Argentina) did Laidlaw finish the game, Horne staying on the bench.
      Either your memory is poor, or you are a troll. Townsend never played scared (if anything he was too courageous) and although I don’t agree with all of his selections, him keeping faith with Laidlaw from 2018 through to the World Cup was hardly running scared.
      Are you saying that Toonie should get rid of Hoggy as he is only a talisman? In which case get back under your bridge!

      1. Laidlaw didn’t play against Wales! Price started. It was a game like Tonga outside the window leading to two Pro 14 select sides.

        Excellent breakdown though!

      2. Good spot Ting. Don’t know where I got that from! Slightly more accurate than Spindthrift, though.

  7. If we just ignore the Wales game?

    Scotland looked scared at Twickenham and closing out the game in Paris, stunning observation IMO.

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