Georgia v Scotland: trio in line for comeback from injury

Late call-up Swinson could also get chance on Saturday in Tbilisi

Sam Johnson has had a big impact on the Scotland squad since making his debut against Italy in February. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson.

FRASER Brown, Magnus Bradbury and Sam Johnson could all play a part in Scotland’s game against Georgia on Saturday after missing the first two World Cup warm-up matches because of injury. A final decision on who to include in the party for the trip to Tbilisi was due to be taken after training today (Tuesday), with the squad flying out in the morning. The starting line-up will be announced on Thursday.

Glasgow hooker Brown has been making his way back from a toe injury sustained in the PRO14 final,  Warriors centre Johnson sustained an ankle injury in training at St Andrews several weeks ago, and Edinburgh back-row Bradbury has been sidelined with a rib injury. But assistant coach Danny Wilson said earlier today that all three had a chance of selection for this weekend’s match in the Georgian capital.

“The plan is ‘Yes’, and hopefully we get through our main training session, which is this afternoon,” Wilson said when asked if the trio would be available. “We’ve done a lighter unit-based session this morning, and if players get through this afternoon then there’s a good chance that some of those guys will be involved this weekend.”

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Glasgow lock Jonny Gray appears less likely to be involved, although the good news is that he is continuing to make progress from his minor hamstring injury. “He trained today,” Wilson added. “It takes a bit of time for him to tick the relevant boxes and it is a short time frame for him but he is in a better place than he was last week.”

With Gray’s brother Richie having declined to join the World Cup squad and Sam Skinner having been ruled out, Tim Swinson could yet make the same late dash for inclusion that he carried off four years ago, when injury had appeared to rule him out only for him to be a surprise choice by then head coach Vern Cotter. When called up yesterday, Swinson was pointedly said to be in the squad only as “training cover” for Skinner, but he may well be needed to take an active role in at least one of the games against Georgia if Jonny Gray still needs rest.

Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis and Scott Cummings are the three other locks in the squad, and all should see action over the coming two weekends. But three for two games could well be deemed insufficient, and if Swinson does get his chance this weekend, a big performance might yet see him come into the frame for selection.

“We’re pretty trusting of Tim and where Tim’s been for Scotland before and Glasgow before,” Wilson said of the 32-year-old. “That’s where it currently sits, and the future will dictate . . .  Future training performances, future performances if he’s asked to play a game, will dictate selection for the World Cup.”

Wilson would only say that Swinson could “potentially” travel to Georgia, but his chances of going look stronger than that. One major factor in Swinson’s favour in general is the fact that, like Skinner, he is a lock who can play at blindside – a combination that the coaching team seem to favour over back rows who can play in the second row.

“There are a number of players who tick that box,” Wilson continued when asked about the versatility issue in the pack. “I’m not sure Ryan Wilson or John Barclay were too keen on going in the second-row at the weekend but needs must. We have a number of players who can play in two positions and that is a big decision to make off the back of the weekend as well.”

Richie Gray rules himself out of Scotland’s World Cup squad

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Stuart Bathgate
About Stuart Bathgate 768 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.