SCOTT LAWSON has been named in the Scotland training squad ahead of the start of the Six Nations next month, more than four years after his last international appearance against Argentina in November 2014. He is one of three hookers named in the 40-man squad, alongside Stuart McInally of Edinburgh and George Turner of Glasgow Warriors. The 36-year-old has played 11 games for Newcastle Falcons this season in the Aviva Premiership and the European Challenge Cup [starting five times and coming off the bench on six occasions].
“You mention his age, we like to call that experience – and given that we are missing at the moment two hookers in Fraser Brown and Ross Ford who have played a lot of rugby for Scotland, and a couple of guys on either side of the hooker position who have also got a lot of experience, Scott’s experience we believe will really help us,” said Townsend.
“The way Scott has played this season really fits with what we want to do with our game – he’s dynamic, he’s a low tackler and he’s got excellent set-piece accuracy, whether that is in the line-out or scrum.”
As widely anticipated, Lawson’s fellow Falcons front-rower Jon Welsh has been named in the squad and is set to make his first appearance since the 2015 World Cup, capitalising on WP Nel and Zander Fagerson being injured and Simon Berghan’s suspension for the opener in Wales on 3rd February.
There is also a first ever call-up for Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn, who is one of four uncapped players in the squad – along with scrum-half Nathan Fowles, prop Murray McCallum (both of Edinburgh), and Glasgow Warriors prop D’arcy Rae, who were involved earlier in the season.
“He was in line to be in our November squad due to the way he started this season, he did have a dip in form around October which put paid to that, but we think he’s played really well since that period,” explained Townsned. “We know from speaking to the Edinburgh coaches that he has been really professional and diligent, and he’s getting the reward by producing consistently good performances for Edinburgh.”
Townsend hinted that Kinghorn, who celebrates his 21st birthday this Thursday, may be deployed on the wing.
“He’s very good in attack, he’s improved his defence, he’s got an all-round skill-set because he used to play stand-off, his kicking game is excellent, he’s got real potential to be a threat in the air given he is 6ft 5inch, but his key strength is his speed – and his speed could give him opportunities somewhere in the back three other than just at full-back,” said the coach.
Greig Laidlaw, who is hoping to make his comeback after three months out with an ankle for Clermont this coming weekend, is named in the squad – but not as captain. That role stays with John Barclay, who has excelled as the team’s leader since taking over the job during the last Six Nations.
“He’s been a great captain for the team just as Greig was a great captain for the team before that. Greig was going to be captain for the summer tour and then got called up to the British and Irish lions tour, and was then in line to be captain in the November Test series before he got injured – he obviously hasn’t played for around three months now so that’s a big part of why he wasn’t named as captain, but also the fact that John has done such a good job,” said Townsend.
“If and when Greig comes back to full fitness – and we really hope it will be next weekend – we’ll have two players in the squad who have captained the team very well in the last few years.”
The squad is also boosted by the return of several other experienced players, absent from recent campaigns due to injury, including lock Richie Gray (Toulouse), centres Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby) and Duncan Taylor (Saracens), and Worcester Warriors back-row David Denton.
“It’s a bigger squad than we originally planned – which is largely down to the competition for places – with a number of players having performed well in the Autumn Tests and a few others putting their hands up for selection in recent weeks,” added Townsend.
In addition to the squad, Luke Crosbie and Darcy Graham (both of Edinburgh Rugby) and Adam Hastings (of Glasgow Warriors), have been invited to train with the group.
SCOTLAND SQUAD FOR 2018 NATWEST 6 NATIONS
Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby) – 20 caps
Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 28 caps
Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 cap
Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons) – 1 cap
Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 55 caps
Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 28 caps
Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) – 32 caps
Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 11 caps
Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 7 caps
Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
Greig Laidlaw (ASM Clermont Auvergne) – 58 caps
Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 29 caps
Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) – 2 caps
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 11 caps
Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) – 27 caps
Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 32 caps
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 39 caps
Duncan Taylor (Saracens) – 21 caps
Nathan Fowles (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
John Barclay CAPTAIN (Scarlets) – 66 caps
Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby) – 5 caps
Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh Rugby) – 2 caps
David Denton (Worcester Warriors) – 35 caps
Cornell Du Preez (Edinburgh Rugby) – 5 caps
Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – 18 caps
Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 38 caps
Richie Gray (Toulouse) – 64 caps
Luke Hamilton (Leicester Tigers) – 1 cap
Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors) – 20 caps
Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons) – 46 caps
Murray McCallum (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) – 12 caps
Gordon Reid (London Irish) – 27 caps
D’arcy Rae (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby) – 7 caps
George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 2 caps
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 15 caps
Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons) – 11 caps
Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 32 caps