Winners and losers from Gregor Townsend’s training squad selection

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WINNERS

DARCY GRAHAM – Age: 20 years and 30 days on Sunday – Current club: Edinburgh Rugby – Previous teams: Hawick, Hawick Wanderers, Hawick Albion – Position: Wing/Full-back

Signed his first full-time professional contract with Edinburgh at the end of last season and will make his debut at that level in a friendly against Sale Sharks tonight [Friday]. He was a star of the Scotland Under-20 team’s historic Junior World Cup campaign in Georgia earlier this summer.

Townsend’s verdict:

I think he has always thrived playing at a higher level, whether it was with the Under-20s a year ago when he looked very good in that opening game of the Junior World Cup, or playing for Hawick, or for the Under-20s again this year. He is somebody who really wants to take on the opposition ball in hand.

I have spoken to Richard Cockerill and have watched some of the Edinburgh sessions and he has looked really good so far. It is a look into the long-term as well, giving him a chance to experience the environment and the chance to work alongside some quality players in the back three. Having Stuart Hogg at the camp as well will hopefully give him some pointers and some advice that will be to his benefit. It will help his development to be in the camp with us next week.

We’re looking for back-three players to stand out and add to what we have there and grab their opportunities. He’s played well at wing and full-back. He is the sort of player you want on the ball as much as possible and that could be full-back.

It’s great to see small players coming through and doing well. New Zealand have Nehe Milner-Skudder and Damian McKenzie – Darcy has a similar profile. It is very hard to tackle small players now, especially with quick feet, but you have to be competitive and tough to play at a high level when you are not as big as the others. Darcy has shown that already in his career and in pre season with Edinburgh.

MATT FAGERSON – Age: 19 years, 1 month and 4 days – Current club: BT Sport Academy aligned to Glasgow Warriors and Glasgow Hawks – Previous teams: High school of Dundee, Strathallan School – Position: Anywhere in the back-row

The younger brother of Scotland tight-head prop Zander was another stand-out performer during Scotland under-20s march to an all-time high of fifth in June’s Junior World Cup campaign. He made his Glasgow Warriors debut almost exactly a year ago, scoring a try in the process. He played eight competitive games for Glasgow Warriors last season (three starts and five off the bench).

Townsend’s verdict:

Matt has already played professionally though he is a year younger than Darcy. Both of them played very well for Scotland Under-20, and had something about them, whether it is their ability or their mentality that they thrive playing at a higher level. We want to see them in our camp to see first-hand how they compare with other players who have played Test match rugby.

JAMIE BHATTI – Age: 23 years, 11 months and 12 days – Current club: Glasgow Warriors – Previous teams: Hillfoot Minis, Stirling County, Melrose – Position: Loose-Head Prop

Having represented Scotland at Under-17, Under-18, Under-19, Under-20 and Club XV level, Bhatti now has the chance to go for a full-house with his first taste of the full Scotland camp. He made his Glasgow Warriors debut whilst still on an academy deal in their pre-season demolition of Canada last year, and played five competitive games in the Pro12, before being rewarded with a full-time contract with the cub for the season about to commence.

Townsend’s verdict:

This is an opportunity through Al Dickinson and Allan Dell being still out injured. Jamie impressed us at Glasgow [when training there on an academy contract last season] and did very well when he got the opportunity to play. Alex Allan, who had been on the summer tour, misses out and this is an opportunity for Jamie to grab that chance.

SCOTT CUMMINGS – Age: 20 years, 8 months and 17 days – Current club: Glasgow Warriors – Previous teams: Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow Hawks – Position: Second-Row

He joined the Warriors elite development roster in the summer of 2014, earning a professional contract in 2016. The second-row made his debut for Glasgow in a pre-season fixture against Clermont Auvergne prior to the 2015/16 season, scoring his first try in a victory over Connacht in the Guinness PRO12 a few weeks later. He captained Scotland Under-20 that year, leading his side to a first ever win over England in the opening game of the Six Nations, where he also scored a try, and also a famous victory against Australia in the Junior World Cup the following summer. He trained with the Scotland squad ahead of this year’s summer tour, The second row also boasts a black belt in Taekwondo.

JAMIE RITCHIE – Age: 21 years and 4 days – Current club: Edinburgh Rugby – Previous teams: Howe of Fife, Strathallan School – Position: Anywhere in the back-row

He signed a senior deal with Edinburgh aged just 17, after continually impressing as part of the Scotland age-grade set-up. The former Scotland Under-20 captain came off the pro team’s bench to make his debut in Dublin against Leinster in the Guinness PRO12 match in October 2014, and committed to the club on a three-year deal ahead of the 2016/17 season. He was a silver medalist at the British judo championships in 2009,

Townsend’s verdict:

We were impressed with him last season. He played a few games with Edinburgh and his defence was excellent. He adjusted to playing at open-side much more regularly and with a consistency in his game. He can play along the back row. Rob Harley picked up an injury earlier this week so Jamie was not going to be in the squad but he is the right player to come in to replace Rob. It will be interesting to see how he gets on competing against the other back-rows.

PHIL BURLEIGH – Age: 30 years, 9 months and 30 days – Current club: Edinburgh Rugby – Previous teams: Highlanders, Chiefs, Bay of Plenty – Position: Stand-off/centre

Joined Edinburgh Rugby on a two-year deal in summer 2014 from Super rugby side, Highlanders, and made his debut off the bench in the win over Munster to open the 2014-15 campaign.He made his 50th appearance for the capital club in the victory over Stade Francais at BT Murrayfield in the 2016-17 European Challenge Cup and penned a two-year contract extension ahead of the 2016-17 season.

Townsend’s verdict:

He can play two different types of game, he can be a ball-handler and a strike runner himself. He is in great shape physically after a really good preseason.

ANTON BRESLER – Age: 29 years, 6 months and 4 days – Current club: Edinburgh Rugby – Previous teams: Sharks – Position: Second-row

The Namibian-born lock signed for Edinburgh in summer 2014 from South African Super Rugby franchise, Sharks. He came off the bench to make his debut for the capital outift against Connacht in round two of the Guinness PRO12 2014-15 campaign, and made his 50th appearance for the club against Munster in April 2016. Despite and injury ravaged 2016-17 campaign, he penned a one-year contract extension with the club at the start of the summer..

Townsend’s verdict:

He did not play as much last season through injury but before that was excellent. He was a real pain in my previous role as Glasgow coach in how well tackled and how well he played in the set piece. It is great to see him back training fully.

LOSERS –

MATT SCOTT, JOSH STRAUSS and RUARIDH JACKSON miss out on selection.

Townsend’s verdict –

We believe we are sending a message to them that they need to play better to get back into the squad. Matt is determined to do that. Matt has a couple of areas to his game he will be working hard with at Gloucester to show us he can play Test match rugby for Scotland. I believe he can. I believe Matt, Josh and the other players who have not made the squad can at their best play for Scotland.

Ruaridh came into our squad late and covered stand-off and full back. With Tommy Seymour back in our squad he just misses out. We know what a quality player he is. Being back with Glasgow he will be hoping to play regular rugby to show he can get back into the squad at a later day.

RICHARD COCKERILL and DAVE RENNIE are still trying to adjust to life in Scotland but have been deprived of a whole raft of their most accomplished players less than two weeks before the start of their Guinness pro14 campaign.

Townsend’s verdict –

The reason we are having this camp is to get to know our players better. There are players who did not go on tour with us through injury, Lions call-ups or selection, who need to find out what we like as a coaching group, and what the Scotland camp will feel like with the training sessions and the rugby we aspire to play.

We believe the timing for next week fits perfectly. The last game was two months ago and the next time we meet will be in just over two months.

Also, it does not conflict too much with the pro teams’ preparations, it is not a Pro14 or Aviva Premiership weekend. A number of our players will not be playing the final pre-season game for their clubs so we can get a good couple of days training.

It has been easy assembling the group because it has been a World Rugby designated camp. I think Ireland are training at the same time and England  had a camp a couple of weeks ago, so it is part of international preparations.

We have made adjustments to the week. we had the opportunity to have three days as per World Rugby regulations, and other countries will do that, but we will only be going for Monday and Tuesday.

We do feel it is important and very valuable for us to have a gathering at this time. We could have done it in September or October which would have impacted much more on the pro teams as they go into their Pro14 and European games. Or we could have decided not to have it but to not get our players together to meet them and work with them over a long period between summer and November we felt would be a disadvantage. There was also a number of players who did not go on tour during the summer we can work with now.

ALASDAIR DICKINSON and RORY SUTHERLAND, who missed almost all of last season through injury, have effectively been ruled out until after the November Tests after not even being invited along to observe the camp.

Townsend’s verdict:

He [Dickinson] was making good progress and it has just been stalled. In the back of our minds we are thinking that this will be great long-term as he is getting fresh by not playing too much rugby. But he will be frustrated he is not back to playing at the beginning of the season after missing most of last year. Fingers crossed, he can still play a lot of games in the future – for Edinburgh and Scotland.

Rory has played well for Scotland. He is making good progress on the groin injury that kept him out most of last year. He could be back around the time of the internationals. Edinburgh are managing him carefully. He is certainly someone who had a big future when he played for Edinburgh and Scotland.

RICHIE GRAY is also listed as ‘not considered through injury’ but Townsend is keeping his fingers crossed that the big lock will be back in the mix by November.

Townsend’s verdict:

Primarily it is down to the nature of the injuries: the ones who are invited to camp are not going to be out as long as the other ones. The exception is Richie Gray who is currently with Toulouse after a recurrence of his back issue and we are waiting to see what will happen with that. He only played once for Toulouse after the Six Nations and then missed our tour. We’ll see how he progresses.

Full list of 41 man Scotland squad to train at St Andrews on 21st and 22nd August –

BACKS
Phil Burleigh (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 26 caps
Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 cap
Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 25 caps
Rory Hughes (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps
Huw Jones (Stormers) – 8 caps
Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 5 caps
Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne) – 58 caps
Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 28 caps
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 8 caps
Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) – 24 caps
Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 29 caps
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 36 caps
Duncan Taylor (Saracens) – 21 caps
Greig Tonks (London Irish) – 8 caps
Tim Visser (Harlequins) – 33 caps
FORWARDS
John Barclay (Scarlets) – 63 caps
Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh Rugby) – 2 caps
Anton Bresler (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Matt Fagerson (BT Sport Academy aligned to Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 12 caps
Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) – 110 caps
Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – 16 caps
John Hardie (Edinburgh Rugby) – 16 caps
Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) – 9 caps
Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) – 18 caps
Gordon Reid (London Irish) – 27 caps
Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – 32 caps
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby) – 4 caps
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 12 caps
Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 30 caps


Injured players invited to camp:
Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby), David Denton (Worcester Warriors), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors)

Not considered through injury
: Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby), Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby), Richie Gray (Toulouse), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh)

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 595 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.