Scotland’s depth will ride the wave of injuries hitting the camp only two weeks into the Guinness Six Nations Championship, believes assistant coach AB Zondagh.
From a clean bill of health on the eve of the championship, the Scots now face being without six potential starters for Saturday’s game against Grand Slam chasing France at BT Murrayfield.
Jamie Ritchie (hamstring) was lost for the championship against England, Rory Sutherland (rib) followed him against Wales, and now Jonny Gray (ankle) and prospective replacement Scott Cummings (knee) are also out.
Cam Redpath (neck) is out of the France game at least. While Matt Fagerson (foot) did come into camp at Oriam yesterday, he was getting an assessment in Spire Hospital at Murrayfield and it doesn’t look too hopeful.
Bayliss back, and six called up
Oh my goodness what a try from Josh Bayliss 🤯
The big @BathRugby back-rower briefly took on the form of Cheslin Kolbe and stepped the defender out of his boots!
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) February 19, 2022
The Scots called up six and do have one recovery in Josh Bayliss. He is a potential starter in the back row, especially if Fagerson doesn’t make it.
Zondagh is getting his first taste of the Six Nations since leaving Toulouse – where he coached the French half-backs Antoine Dupont and Romain N’Tamack – for Scotland, looks on it philosophically.
“I’m learning it’s a tough competition and it hinges on such fine margins,” he said. “You have to get the detail right, make sure that you prepare players as best as possible for the weekend’s game.
“(The injuries) won’t change the way we play at all. It is a great opportunity for guys in the squad to show what they are about. These are opportunities for players who have not been involved yet.
“This squad is really good and we have faith in every single player in it.”
‘They all work hard at their craft’
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 14, 2022
Zondagh has moved on from coaching Dupont and N’Tamack at Toulouse to Finn Russell. But even with exceptional players the job is the same, he says.
“First and foremost it is hard work,” he said. “N’ Tamack, Dupont, Finn all work very hard at their craft. That is the reason why they are as good as they are.
“They put in the hours and spend time honing their skills. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Finn Russell is an amazing player with many good qualities. We are sure to see a lot of that on the weekend.
“I think you approach it like any player at any level. You try and push them into uncomfortable situations where they need to stretch their limits. And slowly you build upon what they have to broaden their skillset.
“These are all really good players but they also have certain areas of the game that they need to work on. That’s the job of a skills coach – to make sure that you strengthen the weak areas and make their strength into super-strength.”
Smith the latest product from Strathallan
— United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) February 19, 2022
Scotland recalled up James Lang, Oli Kebble, Marshall Sykes and Simon Berghan. The uncapped Glasgow pair Kiran McDonald and Ollie Smith also join the squad.
Smith, just 21, is another former Strathallan School player joining the national squad. The full back follows the Fagerson brothers, Ritchie, George Horne and Murray McCallum from the Perthshire School.
Smith has starred for Glasgow this season. He was man of the match scoring a try against Benetton at the weekend.
Props Berghan and Kebble rejoin the squad after not being involved in the first two games. Both played significant roles in last year’s championship. Edinburgh’s Sykes was capped off the bench against Tonga in November.
Bath’s Bayliss rejoined the squad after recovering from concussion and scoring in his club’s game against Leicester at the weekend. The likelihood is that he will cover 6 or 8 as Sam Skinner moves forward to the second row.
The Exeter forward played in partnership with Grant Gilchrist in the historic win in Paris a year ago.
Forwards: Ewan Ashman (Sale), Josh Bayliss (Bath), Simon Berghan (Glasgow Warriors), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh Rugby), Andy Christie (Saracens), Allan Dell (London Irish), Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Nick Haining (Edinburgh Rugby), Jamie Hodgson (Edinburgh Rugby), Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) Kiran McDonald (Glasgow Warriors), WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby), Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs), Marshall Sykes (Edinburgh Rugby), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby)
Backs: Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby), Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, capt), Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby), James Lang (Edinburgh Rugby), Rufus McLean (Glasgow Warriors), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Kyle Rowe (London Irish), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Ollie Smith (Glasgow Warriors), Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors), Ben Vellacott (Edinburgh Rugby), Ben White (London Irish).