Edinburgh Rugby’s uncapped duo of Allan Dell and Hamish Watson have been given a huge boost by Vern Cotter, with the Scotland head coach stating that if they train and play well enough in the coming weeks then they could yet turn out for their country during the Autumn Tests.
South African-born prop Dell, 22, and back-row Watson, 23, have been rewarded for their good recent club form by being asked to train with the national squad in the build-up to the Argentina match at BT Murrayfield on November 8.
And while they are not in the official 33-man squad named by Cotter for that match and those against New Zealand (November 15) and Tonga (November 22), good showings when they attend the upcoming sessions – along with Glasgow Warriors’ teenage prop Zander Fagerson – could see them put pressure on more experienced players.
Cotter said: “These players have played well so far this season and they have shown great talent, promise and potential. They will get an opportunity to train with us and we get to have a look at them and get an idea of where they are at in their development.
“It is exciting for them and I am personally pleased to see young players coming through and putting their hands up. It is a reward for their form.
“These guys could come into the reckoning to play. We need to get an idea of where they are at and with the props this will be quite easy because we will be able to have opposing scrums at training and see how Allan and Zander are doing. From there we will give them a plan for things to work on going forward.”
Cotter did not rule out the possibility of Edinburgh Rugby No. 8 David Denton playing some part during November if, as expected, he is involved with Edinburgh Rugby over the next two weeks following a hamstring injury.
He said: “There are players who weren’t considered for the main squad because if they had to play international rugby today then they would not be ready for it.
“If David Denton plays well over the next few weeks and gets game time, along with [Glasgow Warriors’] Ryan Wilson and Ryan Grant then they could come into the mix at some stage.”
Meanwhile, after being named captain for the three matches, Edinburgh Rugby second-row Grant Gilchrist took time out to thank more experienced players who have helped him become the leader that he is aged just 24.
He said: “In recent years I think I have grown a lot as a player and as a leader. Leadership was always something that I was told I needed to work on and improve on.
“It did not just click overnight, it was something I needed a lot of help with from guys like Sean Cox [ex-Edinburgh Rugby] who I spent a lot of time with and Jim Hamilton who I worked a lot with when I was away with Scotland.
“I have learnt a lot from these guys and now I have the confidence in calling lineouts and leading teams from the front and it feels pretty natural to me.”
He captained his country on the summer tour away in Argentina and South Africa, but admits leading the side out at BT Murrayfield with all of his friends and family there will give him an extra buzz.
But with the likes of Jonny Gray, Richie Gray and Tim Swinson in the squad and also competing for a second-row spot, captain Gilchrist knows he cannot let his level of performance drop between now and November 8.
“There is a lot of competition in my position and I have to try and do everything I can to make sure, first and foremost, that I am in the team,” he said. “I have to go out there for Edinburgh this weekend against Lyon and do as well as I can and keep building up to November.”
Gilchrist is one of six Edinburgh Rugby players in the squad along with Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Dougie Fife, Tom Heathcote and Tim Visser. Among the big names missing out are Kelly Brown, Jim Hamilton, John Barclay and Max Evans.
Scotland squad for Tests against Argentina (Saturday, November 8, BT Murrayfield, 5.30pm), New Zealand (Saturday, November 15, BT Murrayfield, 5.30pm) and Tonga (Saturday, November 22, Rugby Park, 2.30pm)
Forwards: Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors), Johnnie Beattie (Castres), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan, Geoff Cross (both London Irish), Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (both Edinburgh), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Robert Harley, Jonny Gray (both Glasgow), Richie Gray (Castres), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Kieran Low (London Irish), Euan Murray, Gordon Reid (both Glasgow) Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Tim Swinson (Glasgow).
Backs: Mark Bennett (Glasgow), Chris Cusiter (Sale Sharks), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Dougie Fife, Tom Heathcote (both Edinburgh), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Henry Pyrgos, Tommy Seymour (all Glasgow), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Tim Visser (Edinburgh), Duncan Weir (Glasgow).