Scotland rugby club international coach Phil Smith insists that lessons learned last season were at the forefront of his mind during the process of selecting the 31 men in his preliminary squad for the forthcoming matches against England and Ireland.
Of the 18 forwards listed, 15 are drawn from the top three teams in the BT Premiership: Ayr, Heriot’s and Melrose, and the remaining three from fifth-placed Hawick. Smith believes that the players he names up front will have the physical attributes to meet the challenge presented by their opponents, particularly England, whom the Scots face at Netherdale on February 26.
“I have picked a group of players to try and combat England in the first game. We got smoked down there last year, they were huge,” said Smith. “So, very much I’ve looked towards that fixture, knowing that we’re going to have to compete.”
The squad includes several experienced individuals who have been involved at professional level. In addition, there will be a chance for emerging talent such as Boroughmuir’s Jordan Edmunds and Ruaridh Smith of Currie to catch the eye in the matches which conclude with a trip to Cork on March 18.
The Heriot’s supremo is urging the men he eventually picks to seize the opportunity. “These fixtures are a chance for the players to show that the Scottish club game is at a high level. I want them to promote themselves, their club, their country and win as many games as possible.”
He explained the selection process, saying; “Every weekend, I have access to all Premiership fixtures on video. And another good benchmark is how they play against us as we are one of the better teams.”
Other Premiership sides also have an opportunity to influence the players named in the training squad and the coach admits that his task has been tricky.
“They nominate players and I get a list which I try to batter down to something that is manageable, and deserving, and rewarding for what they have done,” said Smith. “This year a lot of different players have definitely put their hand up.”
Scottish Club XV Squad
Forwards: G Hunter (Ayr), S Cessford (Heriot’s), J Bhatti (Melrose), N Little (Hawick), N Beavon (Melrose), J Malcolm (Ayr), R Graham (Hawick), M Liness (Heriot’s), R Nimmo (Heriot’s), R McAlpine (Ayr), C Charters (Hawick), L Carmichael (Melrose), W Bordill (Ayr), N Irvine-Hess (Melrose), G Runciman (Melrose), J Turley (Heriot’s), J Hill (Heriot’s), P McCallum (Ayr).
Backs: F Thomson (Melrose), S Pecqueur (Melrose), J Edmunds (Boroughmuir), H McPherson (Ayr), R Smith (Currie), L Steele (Heriot’s), R Curle (Ayr), G Graham (Gala), P Boyer (Glasgow Hawks), L Armstrong (Hawick), J Coutts (Hawick), G Wilson (Heriot’s), B McGroarty (Glasgow Hawks).