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Stuart Hogg not guaranteed a return as Scotland captain as he is rested from summer tour squad

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend (left) and Stuart Hogg.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend (left) and Stuart Hogg.

Gregor Townsend is “hopeful” that Stuart Hogg will be Scotland captain again in November after missing this summer’s tour to South America, but would not confirm it yesterday.

Hogg, Finn Russell and Chris Harris are the prominent players who stand down for the tour. Scotland’s five other Lions from 2021 will all make the trip.

Grant Gilchrist, a safe pair of hands on and off the field regains the captaincy he held as far back as 2013. He’ll skipper a 40-strong squad including six uncapped players for three tests against Argentina and an A game against Chile.

The three major absentees are being rested with niggling injuries and having played more minutes over the past year than any of the squad.

Hogg and Russell were in the group that went into Edinburgh for drinks after the Italy game in the Six Nations, but that matter “has nothing to do with this squad” stressed head coach Townsend.

Hogg’s return as captain still ‘hypothetical’

However he said a question of whether Hogg being reinstated as skipper for the Autumn Tests in November was “hypothetical”.

“November is still a few months away,” said Townsend. “He’s got a big opportunity to rest up. Stuart played more minutes in the year than anybody. He got injury niggles but kept playing, for us and for Exeter.

“We think the time he has had off will do him the world of good. He is in agreement with that. He wanted to tour but once he digested the news he is going to turn this into a positive.”

There was a perception after the drinks incident and the disappointment of the Ireland game to close the Six Nations that Hogg might not want the job anymore, but Townsend hopes he will.

“There are reflections after the Six Nations. We ask players for feedback and we meet the players too. Those discussions are obviously private but I would hope that we have all learned from those.

“Stuart has been an excellent captain for us. He’s been consistently one of our best players, not just as captain but before that. He had a really good Six Nations. There is time for him to reflect and things for him to work on as captain, just as there is for him as a player.

“My hope and my belief is that we’ll get to that stage in November where he wants to be captain and he’s in a position where he can be a strong captain for Scotland. That’s the goal.

“Now, if that doesn’t happen it is either because he doesn’t want to do it, or because we’ve seen someone else come through, or other circumstances – but I can’t predict that.”

Russell injured and needing ‘re-energised’

Russell currently has a knee injury – he was pictured in a brace attending the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago. Townsend said whether the stand-off wanted to tour or not was not discussed.

“The challenge with playing lots of rugby, and the demands of playing – whether it is for your club or international – are not just physical,” he continued.

“They are also mental, and we’re all aware of that. So sometimes a break from the game can re-energise you, and an enjoyable experience like going on tour can re-energise you.

“We are all aware of the demands this game has.”

It had been considered to give all the Lions the summer off. But each case was taken on its own merits, he added.

“Some have not played a huge amount of minutes, but minutes sometimes isn’t everything. It is the fact that they have been available for the whole season.

“We know having spoken to them they are really keen to tour. If you are in great physical condition, looking forward to going somewhere different, getting ready to play for Scotland again can set you up for the season.”

The home-based Lions – Zander Fagerson, Ali Price and Hamish Watson – had been managed in their game time. Rory Sutherland had barely played due to injury, while Duhan van der Merwe also had a lengthy time out.

Richie and Redpath missing too

Two others missed badly during the Six Nations, Jamie Ritchie and Cameron Redpath, will not tour either.

“Cam had an operation after the Wales game after a neck issue flared up several times,” he said. “He is not far away but not back to full training, and Bath’s pre-season doesn’t start for four to five weeks.

“Two months ago Jamie was very keen to tour. We thought he perhaps could be back around the Chile weekend. But, no, he’ll only be back full training probably three or four weeks after the tour.”

Josh Bayliss and Ben Vellacott were not considered due to injuries. But Matt Fagerson, Scott Cummings and Rory Darge are all included after recent injury absences.

The six uncapped players have already been involved in squad sessions over the last two years. London Irish wing Kyle Rowe was in camp for the entire championship, but never made a matchday 23.

Murphy Walker and Ollie Smith both played in Strathallan School’s cup winning team of 2017. They could well play in the Chile game, which has ‘A’ status.

Edinburgh’s athletic lock Glen Young, centre Matt Currie and the impressive Ben Muncaster are the other three uncapped players.

Squad

Forwards: Ewan Ashman (Sale), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Dave Cherry (Edinburgh), Andy Christie (Saracens), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Scott Cummings (Glasgow), Rory Darge (Glasgow), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Exeter), Jamie Hodgson (Edinburgh), Ben Muncaster, Pierre Schoeman (both Edinburgh), Javan Sebastian (Scarlets), Sam Skinner (Exeter), Rory Sutherland (Worcester), George Turner (Glasgow), Murphy Walker (Glasgow), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Glen Young (Edinburgh)

Backs: Mark Bennett, Matt Currie, Darcy Graham (all Edinburgh), Adam Hastings (Gloucester), George Horne (Glasgow), Damian Hoyland (Edinburgh), Rory Hutchinson (Northampton), Sam Johnson (Glasgow), Huw Jones (Harlequins), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Rufus McLean, Ali Price (both Glasgow), Kyle Rowe (London Irish), Ollie Smith, Ross Thompson, Sione Tuipulotu (all Glasgow), Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester), Ben White (London Irish)

Tour games: vs Chile (A game), June 25, ko 21.00 BST, Estadio Santa Laura Universidad SEK, Santiago; vs Argentina (all tests ko 20.10 BST)  first test July 2, Estadio 23 de Agosto, Jujuy; second test July 9, Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta; third test July 16, Estadio Único Madre de Ciudades, Santiago Del Estero.

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