Scotland have added six players to a revised squad for the build-up to Saturday’s Calcutta Cup game against England in the NatWest 6 Nations.
Gregor Townsend has brought back Josh Strauss, Tim Swinson and Willem Nel, recalled exile backs Tim Visser and Matt Scott and called up Glasgow Warriors hooker James Malcolm for the first time.
While the 23-year-old Malcolm is uncapped, Scotland are adding a hefty 130 caps of experience although it’s hard to see a way into the matchday squad for any of the additions given either their own lack of game-time or players performing well in front of them.
The most likely to find a way into the 23 to meet the English could be Strauss, although the physical ball-carrying backrower role was performed well against France by David Denton on his return to the squad.
There could be a place for Nel, but the prop hasn’t played since he broke his arm in the first Autumn Test against Samoa back in November. He rejoined Scotland for training with fellow tight-head Zander Fagerson in Galashiels on Friday, but Fagerson, who is recovering from a broken foot, is staying with Glasgow for now.
Swinson, outstanding on his comeback for the Warriors on Friday, could put pressure on Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist but likely only for a bench spot.
Scott and Visser have a chance to impress but it’s unlikely they’ll find their way ahead of the current starters in the centre or on the wings having been overlooked for the first two games.
The changes are part enforced – Duncan Taylor (head), Richie Gray (calf) and Alex Dunbar (thigh) – Mark Bennett replaced Dunbar last week – have all gone out of the squad while Lee Jones and Neil Cochrane are both undergoing return-to-play protocols at their clubs having suffered concussion injuries in PRO14 games on Friday night.
In addition, Edinburgh trio Magnus Bradbury, Nathan Fowles and Murray McCallum, plus Glasgow tight head prop D’Arcy Rae, have been released back to their clubs this week.
Scotland have also added young Edinburgh scrum-half Charlie Shiel and wing Darcy Graham to train with the squad for the first two days of this week’s session. The team to play the English at BT Murrayfield (kick off 4.45 pm on Saturday) will be named on Wednesday.
Meanwhile one of Scotland’s prospective pool opponents in next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan took an unexpected twist with Spain’s 22-10 victory over Romania in the Rugby Europe Championship in Madrid yesterday.
Los Leones’s victory means they edge a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Romanians by a 25-23 aggregate, and two wins in their remaining qualifiers next month against Germany and Belguim – one with a bonus point – will secure them the Europe 1 qualifying slot for Japan.
And that means they will go into Pool A with Scotland, with the scheduled meeting in the Shizuoka Stadium on October 9 next year.
Spain last qualified for the Rugby World Cup Finals in 1999, when they were also drawn in Scotland’s pool and lost 48-0 at Murrayfield.
Backs: Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby), Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby), Greig Laidlaw (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Gloucester), Tim Visser (Harlequins).
Forwards: John Barclay (Scarlets, capt), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors), David Denton (Worcester Warriors), Cornell Du Preez (Edinburgh Rugby), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Luke Hamilton (Leicester Tigers), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), James Malcolm (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby), Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby), Gordon Reid (London Irish), Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).