Gregor Townsend indicated that he’ll stick pretty close to the plan despite the reshuffle of personnel to the training squad ahead of this week’s final NatWest 6 Nations match against Italy in Rome.
Townsend has released a number of Edinburgh players back to Richard Cockerill, clearly with a view to them being fully involved in preparations for the capital club’s key Guinness PRO14 game against Munster at BT Murrayfield on Friday night.
He’s also called up four Glasgow Warriors, three uncapped plus a surprise return for Richie Vernon with the PRO14 Conference A leaders having no game this weekend, as well as Gloucester centre Matt Scott, who was not in the squad to prepare for the Ireland game at the weekend.
Ben Toolis, Cornell du Preez, John Hardie, Magnus Bradbury and Mark Bennett head back to Edinburgh while Glasgow’s Alex Dunbar, who hasn’t played in the 6 Nations this season due to concussion problems and a thigh injury, and Henry Pyrgos are also omitted.
That clearly indicates that Townsend will make only minimal changes if any to the starting 23 for the Stadio Olimpico, as the Scots go for three wins in the championship for the second year in a row, something they haven’t done since the Five Nations Championships of 1995 and 1996.
The three uncapped Glasgow players are lock Scott Cummings, 19-year-old back rower Matt Fagerson and stand-off Adam Hastings, the son of former Lions and Scotland captain Gavin.
Vernon’s return is a surprise as the former High School of Dundee pupil has only just returned from a lengthy spell out with serious injury, playing only parts of two games with the Glasgow Warriors.
Assistant coach Dan McFarland said that some of the alterations were to help Edinburgh this week.
“It’s making sure the PRO teams have a good spread of players for their games,” he said. “It’s very important for us to support them but at the same time not compromise our preparations.
“It’s about getting in guys on form and getting a look at them, but also helping out the PRO teams as well.”
There will be no let up in the intensity to training this week in preparation for Rome, with the Scots still in with a chance of a third place finish in this year’s 6 Nations.
“It’s about winning a Test match and winning our third game in the championship,” continued McFarland. “It’s about focusing on going to Italy and playing against a proud nation who desperately want to win a match in the championship this year.
“We are fully aware that this is another Six Nations game.
“Everybody knows how competitive the Six Nations has been so far and we see a stern test ahead of us.”
Although one loss away from another whitewash, Italy will be looking for finish on a high, he added.
“There are threats there and we are fully aware of them, they have a good tradition of forward play which is at the forefront of my mind.
“They have some class players so we will have our eyes firmly on the ball.”