GREGOR Townsend has not given up hope of attracting Cameron Redpath back into the Scotland ranks, but believes that this summer’s tour is not the right time to make a bid for the Sale Sharks fly-half or for Newcastle openside Gary Graham.
The pair, sons of Scotland internationals Bryan Redpath and George Graham, have recently been in the England age-group and senior squads respectively, having originally turned out for Scottish representative sides. They have yet to be formally captured as England players, but Townsend believes that, especially in the case of the in-demand teenager Redpath, this is the wrong moment to try to force the issue.
“I don’t think it would be right to take him on a tour like this,” the Scotland head coach said on Tuesday after announcing a squad of 33 for the June Tests against Canada, the United States and Argentina. “Giving him too many decisions to make wouldn’t be fair on him.
“He’s playing for his school, he’s playing for Sale, he played for England Under-18s and England Under-20s this year. If that senior England team are seriously considering taking him on tour, that’s their decision. But he’s got a big season next year as he leaves school and tries to improve as a professional rugby player.”
Asked if he thought there was still a chance of claiming Redpath for Scotland, Townsend continued: “Yeah, I would hope so. He’s obviously just 18 years old and has a big season ahead of him next year, leaving school and becoming a professional, joining that Sale group full-time.
“I’m sure he’s going to have a busy summer, whatever tour he’s on, whether he’s with England Under-20s in the World Cup or if Eddie Jones takes him to South Africa with the England team. Of course, if he becomes a better player, which we all hope he does, and gets on to the horizon of playing international rugby, I would love him to play for Scotland like his dad did.”
At 25, and given the competition that already exists for places in the Scotland back row, Graham may not rank as high up Townsend’s list of priorities as Redpath. In any event, in the case of both players, the coach appears to have accepted that he can do little just now other than wait.
“Just now it looks like they’ve chosen to go down the English route,” he added. “Whether they’re capped in the next 12 months, that’s down to their performances and the English coaches’ decisions.”
With Finn Russell having been rested, in part to give him time to settle in at Racing 92, there is only one recognised player in Redpath’s position in the touring squad – Glasgow Warriors fly-half Adam Hastings. However, Townsend revealed that he has “a couple of players in mind” to play at 10, with Ruaridh Jackson being the likely candidate from the group of outside backs who have experience there.
Harlequins’ James Lang, one of six uncapped players in the squad, is primarily known as a stand-off, but Townsend explained that he views the 23-year-old as an inside centre first and foremost. “We’ve known for a while he’s Scottish-qualified,” the coach said of the player, who was born in Middlesex and is also eligible for Wales. “I had looked at him and how he was playing before last year’s tour and we kept an eye on him throughout the season.
“He had a cracking game against Wasps before Christmas. He’s played a bit at full-back and a bit at 12, but he’s mainly been cover for stand-off, mainly off the bench. We’ve tracked him a lot closer for the last two months.
“I spoke to him during the Six Nations to say we were watching him and that if he kept up his form he could be in the mix for summer as a 12, which is primarily what we’re looking at. He has that ball-carrying ability and his biggest strength is his ability to break tackles. But his ability to play 10 means we have a second receiver, a second kicker, at 12. That’s something we want to explore on tour.”
The same goes for Peter Horne, of course, and the Glasgow player could rival Jackson and Hastings for the 10 jersey. Similar versatility is in evidence throughout the squad, from the front row, where Murray McCallum can play on either side, to full-back, where Stuart Hogg and Blair Kinghorn are others who can take over at stand-off if required.
All 33 players, whichever positions they are in, will see the tour as a chance to stake their claim for places at next year’s World Cup squad. But they know they will, to say the least, face competition from some of the senior names who have been left out.
Besides Russell, those rested include John Barclay, Greig Laidlaw, Jonny Gray, Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson. Five men are listed as unavailable due to injury: John Hardie, Huw Jones, Willem Nel, Hamish Watson and the uncapped Edinburgh forward Luke Crosbie.
Scotland squad for summer tour:
Full-backs: Stuart Hogg, Blair Kinghorn.
Wingers: Lee Jones, Byron McGuigan.
Centres: Alex Dunbar, Nick Grigg, Chris Harris, Peter Horne, James Lang, Duncan Taylor.
Stand-offs: Adam Hastings, Ruaridh Jackson.
Scrum-halves: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, George Horne, Ali Price.
Props: Jamie Bhatti, Allan Dell, Murray McCallum, Simon Berghan, Zander Fagerson.
Hookers: Fraser Brown, Stuart McInally, George Turner.
Locks: Lewis Carmichael, Grant Gilchrist, Richie Gray, Tim Swinson, Ben Toolis.
Back row: Magnus Bradbury, David Denton, Matt Fagerson, Luke Hamilton, Jamie Ritchie.