Scotland cast their net wide with eclectic summer tour squad which has links to Japan, Hong Kong and Carmarthen
Scotland have cast the net far and wide to come up with a largely experimental squad for their summer programme which comprises an A international against England and Test matches in Romania and Georgia.
The 37-man selection includes 17 uncapped players ranging from teenage scrum-half Jamie Dobie to gnarled front-row veteran Robin Hislop who has a chance to make his international debut at the age of 29 after impressing for Doncaster.
Jamie Ritchie, the Edinburgh flanker who was unlucky to miss out on Lions selection, will captain the squad.
Among the new faces, there is a call-up for Sione Tuipulotu, the Aussie-born centre/winger who currently plays in Japan but has agreed to join Glasgow Warriors.
Mike Blair, Scotland’s interim head coach while Gregor Townsend is away on Lions duty, describes Tuipulotu as “a really special player” who “qualifies to play for five countries”.
There is certainly an impression that the tour will be used to ‘capture’ players who may have been on the radar of other nations.
Ewan Ashman, the highly rated Sale Sharks hooker, is included along with Josh Bayliss, the Bath flanker. Bayliss is a former England Under-20 international while Ashman is believed to have caught the eye of Eddie Jones.
“Ewan has been with us for a couple of training camps and he’s very passionate about playing for Scotland,” Blair insisted. “He’s made us aware of that and we’re looking forward to getting him some games.
“It is fantastic that a guy like Ewan gets this opportunity and that will tie him to us as well. Ewan is an excellent prospect.”
The left-field selections include Javan Sebastian, the Carmarthen-born Scarlets tighthead who played for Ayr in the 2015-16 season after signing a partnership contract with Glasgow Warriors. Sebastian qualifies through his father who was born in Edinburgh.
“He was player of the season for Ayr that year and he has gone back to Scarlets and done a really good job there and is a good scrummager and moves well around the pitch for a big man,” said Blair.
Cameron Henderson, another who qualifies for England and who was part of the Leicester squad that narrowly lost to Montpellier in last month’s European Challenge Cup final, receives his first call-up. The Hong Kong-born lock left Glasgow Warriors for Welford Road last summer and could now play on home turf when Scotland take on England in the A international on the Tigers ground on June 27.
“He made a big decision to go down to Leicester and it is one that has really paid off,” Blair said of Henderson. “When he signed, he probably did not think he would get as much first XV rugby as he has got and with each opportunity he has had he has excelled. He is a lineout forward, mobile around the pitch and a real prospect, and is ready for the step up again.”
Another new face in the pack is the experienced Northampton loosehead Nick Auterac, also a former England U20 international who qualifies for Scotland through his grandmother. Blair said of the 28-year-old: “He’s a strong mobile prop, he’s got incredibly large biceps and he’s been on our radar for quite a bit.”
As expected, there are a large number of young uncapped players included from the two Scottish pro clubs. Glasgow Warriors’ fine end to the season is rewarded with the inclusion of scrum-half Dobie, flanker Rory Darge, winger Rufus McLean, stand-off Ross Thompson, lock Kiran McDonald and full-back/wing Cole Forbes.
The latter, who also qualifies through a grandparent, arrived in this country from New Zealand in January to try his luck on trial and made an instant impression. A former junior All Black, he now finds himself in the Scotland squad after five games and two tries for Glasgow.
Darge, McLean and Thompson have injected some youthful vigour into the Warriors during the second half of the campaign with McLean in particular catching the eye with his electric pace and nimble footwork which he used to score a sensational try against the Dragons in Cardiff.
There are four uncapped players from Edinburgh, with lock Jamie Hodgson, back-row Luke Crosbie, wing Jack Blain and scrum-half Charlie Shiel included.
If capped, Shiel will be the third generation of his family to play for Scotland, following father Graham Shiel and grandfather Dougie Morgan.
The selection of the squad, which will be trimmed to around 29 for the tour games in Romania and Georgia on July 10 and 17, was a joint effort, according to Blair.
“Everyone was involved in the meetings, Gregor led, there was a discussion,” he said. “If I have a particularly strong opinion on something that is maybe listened to more but it is definitely a team effort.”
Notable absentees include experienced hookers Stuart McInally and Fraser Brown, lock Jonny Gray, stand-off Jaco van der Walt and Northampton centre Rory Hutchinson.
The first three look to have been given the summer off while the latter two appear to have been overlooked.
Ritchie’s appointment as tour captain was an easy decision, said Blair.
“When Jamie first came onto the scene four, five seasons ago with Edinburgh he was someone we immediately identified as having captaincy potential,” said the interim head coach.
“He has an aura around him and leads from the front. He puts his head in places he should not be putting his head. He has a lot of respect from the players so he ticks a lot of those boxes and he has a good rugby brain and a good understanding of the game so this was a natural progression for him and we are delighted he can do it on this tour.”
Scotland squad for 2021 summer series
Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks) – Uncapped
Nick Auterac (Northampton Saints) - Uncapped
Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby) – Uncapped
Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby) – 31 caps
Jamie Bhatti (Bath Rugby) – 18 caps
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh Rugby) – 14 caps
David Cherry (Edinburgh Rugby) – 5 caps
Alex Craig (Gloucester Rugby) – 2 caps
Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) – Uncapped
Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – 20 caps
Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors) - Uncapped
Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors – 13 caps
Cameron Henderson (Leicester Tigers) - Uncapped
Robin Hislop (Doncaster Knights) – Uncapped
Jamie Hodgson (Edinburgh Rugby) - Uncapped
Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors) – 8 caps
Kiran McDonald (Glasgow Warriors) - Uncapped
Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) CAPTAIN – 27 caps
Javan Sebastian (Scarlets) – Uncapped
Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) – 12 caps
Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 17 caps
Jack Blain (Edinburgh Rugby) – Uncapped
Jamie Dobie (Glasgow Warriors) – Uncapped
Cole Forbes (Glasgow Warriors) - Uncapped
Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 23 caps
George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 14 caps
Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh Rugby) – 4 caps
Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) – 25 caps
James Lang (Harlequins) – 6 caps
Rufus McLean (Glasgow Warriors) - Uncapped
Matt Scott (Leicester Tigers) – 39 caps
Charlie Shiel (Edinburgh Rugby) – Uncapped
Scott Steele (Harlequins) – 4 caps
Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 cap
Ross Thompson (Glasgow Warriors) – Uncapped
Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) - Uncapped