Scotland Six Nations squad: Ex-England wing Ruaridh McConnochie and Edinburgh-bound Ben Healy among new call-ups
Former England wing Ruaridh McConnochie and Edinburgh-bound Munster stand-off Ben Healy are two of four uncapped players included in Scotland’s 40-man squad for the Six Nations.
Glasgow centre Stafford McDowall and Leicester second-row Cameron Henderson are the other two included who are yet to feature for the national team. Hamish Watson is included despite not having played since suffering a concussion in November. There are also places in the party for Zander Fagerson, who has been sidelined by a hamstring problem, and Duhan van der Merwe, who has been troubled by an ankle issue, but Darcy Graham, Scott Cummings, Rory Darge and Adam Hastings – who have also been battling fitness and injury problems – have not made it.
Bath wing McConnochie, 31, appeared at the last World Cup, but earned the second of his two England caps three years ago so is eligible to switch nationalities under the new World Rugby three-year rule and qualifies through his Scottish father. He has also played sevens rugby for England and won an Olympic silver medal with Great Britain in 2016, but convinced Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend of his desire to switch allegiances when they met in October.
“He told me it was his ambition to get into a Scotland squad at some stage whether this season or next season,” said Townsend. “His ambition now is to play for Scotland and get into a XV for this season's Six Nations. He has an opportunity now, an opportunity that he's earned but also that's opened up with Darcy Graham's injury.”
Healy, who will join Edinburgh in the summer, qualifies for Scotland through his mother and the 23-year-old will provide back-up for Finn Russell at stand-off and has been called up in the absence of the injured Hastings. He has represented Ireland at under-20 level but qualifies for Scotland through his grandparents.
“Ben brings recent form, which is great,” added Townsend. “We feel he’s got Test match ability. His kicking game is strong. He’s confident, he leads the attack well when he gets the opportunity to do that.”
Scotland start against England at Twickenham on February 4 before hosting Wales at Murrayfield seven days later. A trip to France follows on February 26, before Ireland and Italy come to Edinburgh on 12 and 19 March respectively.
Townsend admitted this could be his last Six Nations as Scotland head coach and confirmed that there has been no discussion about extending his contract beyond the end of this year. “We'll just have to wait and see,” he said. “No discussions have been had and I don't see them taking place until after the Six Nations.”
Townsend played down “speculation” linking him with roles at France and Leicester. “I did get a contact from France, but it was just an initial enquiry and there was nothing further from that because we play France in the Six Nations and I didn't want to talk any further with them about that,” he said. “Nothing about Leicester. I read that with some surprise. Most of the things I've read are speculation.”
Forwards: Ewan Ashman (Sale), Josh Bayliss (Bath), Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown (all Glasgow), Dave Cherry (Edinburgh), Andy Christie (Saracens), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Jack Dempsey, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson (all Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Exeter), Richie Gray (Glasgow), Cameron Henderson (Leicester), WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Pierre Schoeman (all Edinburgh), Javan Sebastian (Scarlets), Sam Skinner (Edinburgh), Rory Sutherland (Ulster), George Turner (Glasgow), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh)
Backs: Chris Harris (Gloucester), Ben Healy (Munster), Stuart Hogg (Exeter), George Horne, Huw Jones (both Glasgow), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath) Stafford McDowell, Ali Price (both Glasgow), Cameron Redpath (Bath), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Ollie Smith, Kyle Steyn, Sione Tuipulotu (all Glasgow), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh), Ben White (London Irish)