Stuart Hogg needs to “tick some boxes” but looks to be on course for a surprise early comeback for Scotland against Fiji on Saturday.
The superstar full-back was expected to miss the entire November series after undergoing ankle surgery in September but was one of six players added to the Scotland squad yesterday in the wake of the weekend’s 21-10 loss in Wales.
Hogg was with the squad at the Principality Stadium, acting as “water carrier”, and Scotland forwards coach Danny Wilson is confident that the 26-year-old could be involved against the Pacific islanders at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.
“There’s still a few boxes to tick, some decisions to make on that. But he’s made really good progress. We’ll see how he goes later this week,” said Wilson.
The scheduled team announcement has been pushed from Wednesday to Thursday, with the obvious conclusion that is to give Hogg time to prove his fitness after what had initially been predicted to be a 12-week lay-off.
“You’d probably have to ask Gregor that,” said the new pack chief. “I’m not sure exactly what the final situation is with Stuart. He’s made a bit of progress, but there’s a bit more to make, just to make sure he’s ready to go and I think the next few days will determine that.”
Hogg’s Glasgow Warriors team-mates Adam Ashe, Scott Cummings, Nick Grigg are also called up, along with Sale’s Josh Strauss and Worcester’s Duncan Weir. Wilson played down any concerns that an immediate comeback for Hogg would be a risk.
“I don’t think there’s a massive concern about that. He’s made really good progress in his rehab, he’s worked extremely hard in a short space of time and he’s show me how important it is for him to play for Scotland,” said the former Cardiff boss, who is looking forward to his first home game after replacing Dan McFarland.
Wilson admitted if the decision was left to Hogg, it would be a swift and simple answer.
“I think he wanted to play Friday night for Glasgow and he wants to play at every opportunity, that’s what I’m learning from him,” said the Englishman. “At this stage we’re definitely hopeful but we have to wait and see how the next three days go. He’s not [taking contact] in this environment, no. He’s just come back today, so there’s a few boxes to tick yet.”
The additions to the squad come along with the return to availability of Exiles such as scrum-half Greig Laidlaw. stand-off Finn Russell and wing Sean Maitland. Flanker Blade Thomson suffered what looked a serious concussion playing for Scarlets at Edinburgh on Friday and Harlequins centre James Lang picked up a rib injury. Edinburgh centre Matt Scott and Leicester back-rower David Denton are both back with their clubs undergoing head injury protocols.
On Thomson, who was one of the new call-ups in head coach Gregor Townsend’s autumn series squad, Wilson said: “It obviously looked like quite a nasty injury on Friday night, so we’ll have to wait and see.
“Blade’s an exciting player that we’re desperate to get involved, but we might have to wait a little bit longer for that.”