Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has hinted that young Edinburgh prop Rory Sutherland could earn his first cap in the upcoming Six Nations after naming the 23-year-old in his 35-man squad for the tournament yesterday.
Sutherland was one of eight Capital players selected and, after enjoying a brief time with the World Cup squad as injury cover last year, the Hawick-born loose-head has been tipped for big things.
“Rory impressed us last year and was part of the group before the Australia game,” said Cotter yesterday. “He’s coming through, we’d like to work with him and we feel he’s got the qualities to become an international player.”
Glasgow tight-head Zander Fagerson is the only other uncapped player in the 35 and Cotter added: “Both those players will get some exposure at some point, I would think.”
Sutherland is joined by club-mates Al Dickinson, Ross Ford, Stuart McInally, John Hardie, Willem Nel, Ben Toolis and Matt Scott in the squad and has played 14 games for Edinburgh this season, starting the last five.
The decision to leave Glasgow flanker Ryan Wilson out of the squad was made before he was cited for allegedly grabbing the testicles of an opposition player at the weekend, according to Cotter.
Wilson faces a disciplinary hearing in London today over the incident involving Northampton scrum-half Lee Dickson which, if found guilty, could result in a minimum 12-week ban. His Warriors team-mate Tim Swinson, whose citation for alleged punching will also be heard today, was included.
“We made a decision with Ryan before he was cited,” explained Cotter. “We have been happy with the way he has been improving, but we feel that other players are perhaps playing better than he is at the moment.
On the incident at Northampton, Cotter added: “It seemed to me that he was just reaching for a pair of shorts, but there will be other people who make the decision.”
The coach admitted that the squad named includes a number of players with injury doubts hanging over them, the most high-profile of which is centre Mark Bennett, who has been included but faces a battle to recover from his shoulder injury in time to make the opening Six Nations match at home to England on February 6.
“It seems better than first when we were thinking six weeks, two months,” said Cotter. “He could be available if all goes well. He’s got to follow his rehab protocols and fingers crossed he could be available for that first game ... maybe.”
The Kiwi added: “At the moment there is probably half a dozen players who, if we had to play this weekend, couldn’t play. There was 33 players who participated in the last Six Nations and we’d imagine it would be similar again. So for those players it will be important they get rehab and perhaps go back to their clubs before the pull on a Scotland jersey.”
Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist and Glasgow scrum-half Henry Pyrgos are training with the squad and there are hopes that both could feature after the opening two games.
On Gilchrist, Cotter said: “By middle of February they’re saying he’ll be able to play. I just met him downstairs and his rehab is going very well. So he’ll be able to come back and boost the squad.
“We’ve got a number of players who can come back and boost us when they’re available. He hasn’t played for a long time and he’ll need to play for his club first, I think.”
Meanwhile, Cotter responded to the news that Edinburgh centre Scott will be heading to Gloucester at the end of the season. “He is an important player and has been very good for Edinburgh, as well,” said Cotter. “But that’s the nature of the professional game, as we know. He has played well and created interest among other clubs looking to reinforce their squads.
“I think the positives are that he’ll get to another environment and learn something from playing with different players. Players learn a lot from other players and he’s in a group he’ll learn from.
“And it opens an opportunity for someone else at Edinburgh. We only have two professional teams, so there aren’t many openings.”
No.8 David Denton departed Edinburgh for Bath after the World Cup and Cotter said: “Francois Louw I rate as one of the best sevens in the world and Dents is playing next to him, so it will be interesting to see what he’s learned.
“I think it will give him another perspective and, as we know, it’s offered an opportunity for some players coming through. There are good young players coming through at Edinburgh, like Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury.”