Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has squad boost for Wales – but Stuart Hogg won’t make it
Scotland’s management team have welcomed the timely return of a number of key players to their Guinness Six Nations squad ahead of Saturday’s pride-salvaging mission against Grand Slam-chasing Wales at BT Murrayfield.
Star full-back Stuart Hogg remains unavailable due to the shoulder injury he picked up in the home defeat by Ireland in week two but forwards Hamish Watson, WP Nel, Sam Skinner and Grant Stewart return to the squad along with Glasgow centre Stafford McDowall. Nel and Watson featured for Edinburgh at the weekend, while Skinner has not played for Exeter since sustaining a head injury early in the Italy opener.
Stand-off Finn Russell also reported to camp after making a tryscoring, 65-minute return from his concussion injury for his French club Racing 92 in their 50-14 win over La Rochelle at the weekend.
Glasgow back-rower Matt Fagerson and Sale wing Byron McGuigan – who missed out on the initial squad through injury – and London Irish prop Gordon Reid also come in.
Eight players have dropped out. Scrum-half George Horne (shoulder), prop D’arcy Rae (ankle), hooker George Turner (concussion) and centre Chris Dean (back) miss out through injury while prop Alex Allan, back-row forwards Rob Harley and John Hardie plus stand-off Duncan Weir have been allowed to return to their clubs.
Assistant coach Danny Wilson was adamant yesterday that a number of the returnees would be ready for the rigours of Test rugby come the weekend as Scotland look to make amends for a deeply disappointing performance in the 27-10 defeat by France in Paris.
“Take WP for example, it’s just been a few weeks with the calf issue and most players bounce back quickly from that,” said the forwards boss. “He hasn’t had a long time out of rugby. Hamish is a little bit longer but still probably a medium term injury.
“It’s about us making the right decisions in selection based on terms of the right preparation but also in terms of positions where there is an injury list, we need to bring players back to give strength to the squad. But we’ll also make sure they’re ready to play.”
Wilson said that the fact Watson’s injury was to his hand has meant he has been able to maintain general fitness and the openside looks certain to start on Saturday and bolster a back row that has been particularly ravaged by injury blows.
“Yes, it’s allowed him to be able to do a lot of what he would do in a normal training week,” said Wilson. “In terms of running and contact at the weekend. What I saw at the weekend, he certainly wasn’t shying away from anything, he was putting his head and his hands into things as he normally would.
“He’s in a good place to come back into this week’s training and we’ll see how he goes in that. I think we’ve had almost two full back rows unavailable to us so to get some bodies back would be great.”
On Russell, Wilson reported: “He’s in camp today and training and it’s all good – he’ll be working hard towards the weekend.”