Scotland are welcoming players back to the fold as the injury crisis abates but putting the returnees back in immediately without much game-time is a “needs must” in certain positions, admitted assistant coach Danny Wilson.
The Scots recalled eight to their squad as they regathered yesterday for the fourth leg of the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday, against the only potential Grand Slam winners left, Wales.
Hamish Watson – who has missed the entire championship so far with a broken hand suffered two weeks before the opening game – WP Nel , Sam Skinner, Byron McGuigan, Matt Fagerson and Gordon Reid plus the uncapped Stafford McDowall and Grant Stewart rejoined the squad at Oriam.
The injured George Horne, George Turner, D’Arcy Rae and Chris Dean, as well as Alex Allan, Rob Harley, John Hardie and Duncan Weir all dropped out.
Watson managed an hour and Nel 40 minutes at the weekend for Edinburgh, while Fagerson was man of the match against Zebre for Glasgow. Skinner, who was injured in the championship opener against Italy, is back in full training but has not played for Exeter.
Nel and Watson seem likely to go straight back into the starting XV for Wales, but Wilson feels they have enough fuel in the tank.
“WP has been just a few weeks with the calf issue and most player bounce back quickly from that,” he said. “Hamish was a little longer but he had a medium term injury, and because it was his hand he’s been able to do a lot of what he would do in a normal training week.
“But it’s about us making the right decisions based on the right preparation but also in terms of where there is an injury list, we need to bring players back to give strength to the squad.
“I think the key is `needs must’ in some positions. In some positions we have the luxury of (gradually re-introducing players) but in others, to be brutally honest, we need to get guys back as quick as we can.”
Back row is the prime area of consideration, he admitted.
“I think we’ve had almost two full back rows unavailable to us so to get some bodies back is great,” continued Wilson. “Matt (Fagerson) we looked to give an opportunity against Fiji and unfortunately he picked up an injury almost straight away. He’s back fit and playing and we can build him into our training week.
“Hamish on Saturday certainly didn’t shy away, he was putting his head and hands into things as he normally does. We’ll see how he goes in training this week. ”
One area of luxury appears to be second row, where Richie Gray has been left to continue his gradual comeback with Toulouse despite the Scots lineout stuttering a little, with six lost throws on their own ball in three games and not a single steal of opposition ball.
“We hold the best record in the competition after the autumn in terms of (lineout) drive metres conceded,” said Wilson. “If you compete hard in the air you can leave yourselves a bit exposed on the floor and against these teams they’ll build that drive pressure.
“We forced three or four poor deliveries against France but didn’t physically steal anything. We need to get a bit better in the air in certain field positions but I’ve been really pleased with the drive defence.
“Richie is back playing now but second row is an area where we have fit bodies delivering reasonably well at the moment. I think it’s important he gets more game time, he didn’t get many minutes this weekend, after being out of for the majority of the season with injury.”
There are no issues with Finn Russell, who missed the France game with concussion but returned to camp after playing for an hour and scoring a try in Racing’s handsome win over La Rochelle on Saturday. Stuart Hogg, however, won’t be considered as he recovers from his shoulder injury.