MIKE BLAIR has pieced together a Scotland A team from his Covid-ravaged training squad to face England A in Leicester tomorrow afternoon, which includes four players in the match-day 23 – Stafford McDowall (Glasgow Warriors) starting, plus George Taylor (Edinburgh Rugby), Ben Vellacott (Wasps) and Callum Hunter-Hill (Saracens) on the bench – who were only called ups few days ago after nine members of the initial group become unavailable due to exposure or potential exposure to the virus.
Matt Scott marks his return to international rugby by captaining the side at his current club ground. He lines up alongside McDowall in the centre, while Ross Thompson is handed the No. 10 jersey after recently being named Glasgow Warriors’ Player of the Season, with Edinburgh Rugby‘s Charlie Shiel selected at scrum-half.
Damian Hoyland is named at full-back with Blair Kinghorn deployed on the wing, alongside Glasgow youngster Rufus McLean.
Glasgow Warrior Oli Kebble is named at tighthead prop and packs down alongside uncapped duo Ewan Ashman (hooker) of Sale Sharks and Nick Auterac (loosehead prop) in the front-row.
Cameron Henderson – who also returns to his home ground – and Glasgow Warriors’ Kiran McDonald combine in an athletic second-row.
Edinburgh Rugby No. 8 Magnus Bradbury anchors a back-row that sees Glasgow Warriors’ Rory Darge and Bath’s Josh Bayliss – named vice-captain for this ‘A’ fixture – selected at openside and blindside flanker respectively. There is no genuine back-rows on the bench.
Glasgow Warriors’ stand-off Adam Hastings is the only capped player named among the replacements, alongside Adam McBurney (Ulster), Robin Hislop (Doncaster Knights), Javan Sebastian (Scarlets), Jamie Hodgson (Edinburgh), Hunter-Hill (Saracens), Vellacott (Wasps) and Taylor (Edinburgh).
“We’ve clearly had a bit of disruption this week, but the medical team and our playing squad have handled the situation extremely professionally,” said interim head coach Blair.
“It is unfortunately a reminder of the world we’re currently living in and the players are now isolating as per Scottish Government guidelines.
“Despite this, we’ve still had a really good training week, with this young and talented squad maintaining the high standards and levels of enthusiasm that we expect while in Scotland camp.
“As we’ve said all week, we’re treating this ‘A’ game like a Test match, and so the build-up and processes that we go through on a weekly basis have remained the same. We expect our squad to continue that intensity into game day, as this match gives every player an opportunity to prove themselves on the international stage.
“This is a relatively new group of players – especially with Stafford, Callum, Ben and George only just coming in to the squad – however they’ve already shown in a short space of time that they have the ability and attitude to make a statement with their performances.
“The players have put in the hard work and now we look forward to the challenge of taking on a strong England ‘A’ side this Sunday.”
Scotland A (v England A at Welford Road, Leicester, Sunday @ 2pm):
Scotland A: D Hoyland; R McLean, M Scott, S McDowall, B Kinghorn; R Thompson, C Shiel; N Auterac, E Ashman, O Kebble, C Henderson, K McDonald, J Bayliss, R Darge, M Bradbury. Substitutes: A McBurney, R Hislop, J Sebastian, J Hodgson, C Hunter-Hill, B Vellacott, A Hastings, G Taylor.
England A: F Steward; A Radwan, O Lawrence, D Kelly, M Malins; J Umaga, H Randal; E Genge, C Langdon, J Heyes, H Wells, C Ewels, L Ludlow (C), B Curry, C Chick. Substitutes: J Blamire, B Obano, T Davison, T Hill, L Ludlam, D Robson, C Furbank, J Cokanasiga.