Johnnie Beattie could go straight back into the Scotland team for the opening RBS Six Nations Championship match against France in Paris with only four games under his belt after returning from injury, two of them for club side Ayr.
The number eight made his comeback from shoulder surgery against Munster two weeks ago and due to a registration blunder was unable to play for Glasgow in the Heineken Cup games last weekend and this, so will turn out for Ayr in the British and Irish Cup.
But Scotland head coach Andy Robinson has included the 24-year-old in his 34-strong squad, which will gather at St Andrews next week for the build-up to the championship and preparation for the A-match against Ireland at Galashiels a week tomorrow, where Beattie will play.
Should he come through that satisfactorily, Beattie could go straight into the opening Six Nations match at the Stade de France on February 5, revealed Robinson, who has also included the uncapped Glasgow Warriors Jon Welsh and Rob Harley as well as young Bath full-back Jack Cuthbert.
“We’ve seen Johnnie play two games so far and we’re pleased with his attitude, so it’s all about what happens in the next two games and we expect him to play against Ireland A next Friday,” said the coach.
“His ability to break the line and his dynamism as an eight, he showed that against Munster and in the modern world where defences dominate, it’s important you have that ability. Dealing with the squad on its merits, for the eight slot there is an opportunity to pick Johnnie and that’s why he’s in so quick. We’ll see his performance in these games and we’ll make a judgment after the A game.”Harley in gearTwenty-year-old Harley’s rise with acclaimed performances in his first full season for Glasgow was enough to get him into the squad rather than recalling Al Strokosch, like Beattie just back from an injury.
“At six we have Kelly Brown, Harley and potentially Nathan Hines so that’s why we’re able to give Al more time,” continued the coach. “Everyone’s been pushing for Rob and rightly so, he’s been outstanding in a tough position.
“His work rate has been good and he’s been influential in games. He stood up against Toulouse and performed in Munster and when you have players like that they deserve an opportunity.”
Former electrician Welsh had come through a tough period and was playing well again while Cuthbert has impressed Robinson.
“Jack’s been in the Bath side for the last three or four months, keeping Nick Abendanon out and played really well, over a consistent period. That’s the message, it’s the guy who is performing week-in week-out (who gets called up). It doesn’t matter what age you are it’s delivery and quality of performance.
“Someone like Nathan Hines, we talk about the 20-year-olds but there are guys already in the squad and delivering. Nathan has been outstanding for Leinster since the autumn internationals, as has Kelly Brown for Saracens.
“Guys delivering quality at the top in the really intense games of European competition are the guys we’ll need for the championship and especially if we are to win away from home.”
With the hint that Hines and Brown are in the frontline for selection for France, Robinson admitted the inclusion of Alex Grove, returned to English division one club Worcester after limited appearances on loan at Edinburgh, was indicative of “being a little light at the 12 position” in the absence of injured Graeme Morrison.
“Alex has had some games and we know that he can do a job for us in that position,” added the coach, who has also recalled Nick De Luca to challenge for that role.
Sixteen further players were named on Wednesday for the squad for the Irish A game at Netherdale and a number from the main squad mostly forwards will drop down to that group for that game but only home-based players as per IRB regulations.Scotland squad for the training camp at St Andrews beginning on Monday:Backs Joe Ansbro (Northampton Saints), Mike Blair (Edinburgh), Jack Cuthbert (Bath), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh), Rory Lamont (Toulon), Sean Lamont (Scarlets), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Dan Parks (Cardiff Blues), Chris Paterson (Edinburgh), Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais) and Nikki Walker (Ospreys).Forwards John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie (both Glasgow Warriors), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Geoff Cross, Ross Ford (both Edinburgh), Richie Gray, Dougie Hall, Robert Harley (all Glasgow Warriors), Nathan Hines (Leinster), Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Scott MacLeod (Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Newcastle Falcons), Ross Rennie (Edinburgh) and Richie Vernon and Jon Welsh (both Glasgow Warriors).Not considered due to injury Chris Cusiter and Graeme Morrison (both Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Dickinson and Jim Hamilton (both Gloucester) and Phil Godman (Edinburgh).Additional players for the Scotland A squad to prepare for game v Irish Wolfhounds (Ireland A), Netherdale, Galashiels, Friday, January 28, kick-off 7.30pm:Backs David Blair, Ben Cairns (both Edinburgh), Colin Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), John Houston, Lee Jones (both Edinburgh), Peter Murchie and Hefin O’Hare (both Glasgow Warriors) and Jim Thompson (Edinburgh).Forwards Roddy Grant (Edinburgh), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Alan MacDonald, Stuart McInally and Fraser McKenzie (all Edinburgh), Alastair Muldowney, Fergus Thomson and Ryan Wilson (all Glasgow Warriors).