Cell C Sharks flanker Dylan Richardson is the major surprise in Gregor Townsend’s first squad since returning to Scotland duties ahead of the opening autumn test against Tonga.
The Scotland head coach, who was with the Lions in the summer, has named an all-United Rugby Championship squad for the game at Murrayfield on October 30.
The Tonga test falls outside World Rugby’s international window. Players based in England and France – including captain Stuart Hogg and star stand-off Finn Russell – are not available for release that week.
Richardson is Townsend’s wildcard
— The Sharks (@SharksRugby) October 13, 2021
The 36-strong squad are all from Edinburgh and Glasgow but for Richardson, a 22-year-old back row forward born in South Africa to a Scottish father. He played against Glasgow for the Sharks in the URC last week.
Home-based Lions AIi Price, Zander Fagerson and Hamish Watson, who have yet to return to playing for their clubs, are all included.
Many of the squad for the Summer Tests cancelled due to Covid infections are also included. Veterans like Fraser Brown, Grant Gilchrist, Stuart McInally and players recovered from injury such as Darcy Graham and Sam Johnson are back in.
14 of the 36-strong training squad are as yet uncapped. Edinburgh prop Pierre Schoeman, who has completed his residency qualification period, is among those likely to win their first caps.
There’s strong cases for Glasgow backs Cole Forbes, Sione Tuipulotu and Rufus McLean, and in-form Warriors back rower Rory Darge.
Surprise omissions at stand-off
— United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) October 13, 2021
There’s no place for Edinburgh’s Ben Vellacott, or for two experienced stand-offs in Duncan Weir and Jaco van der Walt. Between them the pair played all of last year’s Autumn tests in the injury absence of Russell and Adam Hastings.
Instead Glasgow’s impressive young 10 Ross Thompson seems set to take the step-up. But Townsend may share his former assistant Mike Blair’s preference for moving Blair Kinghorn forward from the back three.
‘Some standout performances from young and established players’
Your United Rugby Championship Player of the Match, Rory Darge 🏅 pic.twitter.com/aJ0wmew3hj
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) October 9, 2021
Townsend said: “It has been great to see both Edinburgh and Glasgow make positive starts to their URC campaigns. It’s been driven by some standout performances from both young and established players.
“We have four tough Test matches ahead of us in this year’s Autumn Nations Series. It is important we bring players together early.”
Townsend will shorten his squad next week ahead of the first game. A new group including the England and French based players is expected for the Australia test on November 6.
Scotland also play world champions South Africa on November 13 and Japan on November 20. All games are at BT Murrayfield.
Forwards: Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow) Fraser Brown (Glasgow), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow), Grant Gilchirst (Edinburgh), Nick Haining (Edinburgh), Rob Harley (Glasgow), Jamie Hodgson (Edinburgh), Oli Kebble (Glasgow), Murray McCallum (Glasgow), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Dylan Richardson (Cell C Sharks), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), Marshall Sykes (Edinburgh Rugby), George Turner(Glasgow) Hamish Watson (Edinburgh)
Backs: Mark Bennett (Edinburgh), Jack Blain (Edinburgh), Matt Currie (Edinburgh), Jamie Dobie (Glasgow), Cole Forbes (Glasgow), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), George Horne (Glasgow), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh), Sam Johnson (Glasgow), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), James Lang (Edinburgh), Rufus McLean (Glasgow), Ali Price (Glasgow), Charlie Savala (Edinburgh) Kyle Steyn (Glasgow), Ross Thompson (Glasgow), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow).