You can’t doubt that Scotland’s international rugby players have earned their corn this season.
It started just short of a year ago with a gruelling preparation camp for the Rugby World Cup, four warm-up tests, then five full-on games in the tournament itself.
Then it was back to their clubs, PRO12 and European Champions Cup games, and of course five intense games in the RBS 6 Nations. John Hardie, who came over directly from the Super Rugby season with Highlanders, has barely had a break in 18 months.
Yet Hardie, and others who have trudged every step of this endless season, are on the plane to Japan in June. There, they’ll have just five days to acclimatise before facing the Brave Blossoms in Toyota City on June 18, and then a six-day turnaround for the second test in Tokyo.
Many expected Vern Cotter to sit down some of his troops with more miles on the clock – Hardie, perhaps the front row of Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel, maybe skipper Greig Laidlaw and strike weapon Stuart Hogg.
Not a bit of of it, Cotter’s not for testing his strength in depth. Only Edinburgh wing Damien Hoyland can be defined as untried in the squad of 27, and he was part of the pre-RWC training camp and played in one of the warm-ups.
Cotter has left well alone because he wants the still-eligible youngsters Zander Ferguson, Jamie Ritchie, Scott Cumming and Blair Kinghorn to play in the World U-20 Cup in England when they might have been taken to Japan for some seasoning.
In addition, even now Eddie Jones has gone and captain Michael Leitch will not be involved, Japan are nobody’s idea of a team you can take unnecessary licence with.
Cotter was at pains to point out yesterday that continuity was key, and he and his management team were unhappy with the last outing in Dublin, referencing some “old habits that need to be corrected”.
They are not satisfied with two wins in the Six Nations, even if many Scotland fans were. If the players are well looked after – and they will be – it’s on balance a good plan to keep pushing with your best personnel.