Richard Cockerill has backed Stuart McInally to rise to the occasion if called on by Scotland to start at hooker against Samoa this weekend.
The Scots are in the grip of a front row injury crisis, which has potentially been added to as their most capped player, Ross Ford, suffered a pectoral injury in training last week.
McInally has endured a number of injury frustrations himself over the years which has limited the 27-year-old to just nine Scotland caps. The former flanker has long been viewed as a player of great potential but setbacks, such as the neck injury he sustained on the eve of the 2015 World Cup, have stalled his progress.
If Ford is not fit he would be in pole position for the opening Test of a series that also includes matches against New Zealand and Australia.
Speaking after Edinburgh’s 37-10 home win over Ospreys on Saturday, in which McInally was not involved, coach Cockerill said: “I think [McInally] should play. I think he has been the form hooker in Scotland. He has been really good and has worked hard at his game. On form, he deserves to start for Scotland.
“He is a very good ball carrier, he works very hard in defence, he is a good leader, he has worked hard on his throwing. I just think he has a very complete game. He is a very good set piece player now and his throwing is improving all the time, but he is a very good footballer as well.
“I think he will suit how Scotland want to play.”
George Turner is the other hooker in the initial 36-man squad named by Scotland coach Gregor Townsend and could start on the bench. That would be a remarkable turn of events for a player who was unsure of where he would be playing at the start of the season. The 25-year-old was loaned from Edinburgh to Glasgow Warriors for the season but has seized the opportunity presented by a knee injury to Fraser Brown, which has ruled him out of the series.