‘Huge boost’ for Scotland as Nel and Fagerson return to training

They could be joined in the national squad by Warriors hooker Fraser Brown and Toulouse lock Richie Gray for Ireland

Zander Fagerson in action against Italy last year.
Zander Fagerson in action against Italy last year. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson

SCOTLAND’s options at tighthead, close to non-existent before the Wales game, now look far healthier with the return to training of Willem Nel and Zander Fagerson. A decision will be made early next week on whether to include either man in the squad to face England.

Edinburgh prop Nel returned to training with Scotland on Wednesday, while Glasgow’s Fagerson was back with the national squad for the first time today, Gregor Townsend explained before a public training session at Netherdale. With Simon Berghan having played so well against France after having been suspended for the Welsh game, and the experienced Jon Welsh also still available, there may be little or no temptation to rush either Nel or Fagerson back into action after their injury lay-offs. But even the possibility of their return will both boost morale and encourage heightened competitiveness within the squad as they prepare for the Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield next Saturday.  

“It’s a huge boost,” Townsend said. “We’ll see how they get on this week, and potentially next week we’ll be able to make a call on when they’re available – or it might be after the England game.”

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By the time of the Ireland match in three weeks, the two props could be joined in the national squad by Warriors hooker Fraser Brown and Toulouse lock Richie Gray, although those two will almost certainly be back in action for their clubs before coming into contention for a Test place. “We hope he’ll resume training next week with his club,” Townsend said of Brown, who has been sidelined because of concerns about concussion. “He should be back available to play pretty soon. We’ll know more this weekend whether [Gray] will be back in full training too.”

Gray missed the game against Wales and France because of a calf injury. Fagerson injured a foot in training at the start of the year, while Nel has been out since late last year with a broken arm.

Edinburgh prop Murray McCallum made his debut off the bench in Cardiff, replacing Welsh for the last quarter of an hour with the match long gone. His time will come, but he will now surely have to wait until the summer tour at the earliest before winning a second cap.

“We had three tightheads missing going into Wales,” Townsend added. “It dropped down to two with Simon coming back [against France], and he played really well . Jon had that experience of playing down in Wales. So those two players, plus Murray in the mix, we’d be fairly confident that they would do a good job.

“Getting one of Zander or WP back in the next couple of weeks would be a boost. Obviously this is Zander’s first session with us. He only resumed training this week. WP has been training for a couple of weeks now, but we need to get a good look at them and see how they react, but it will be next week that we’ll have a clearer picture.”

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About Stuart Bathgate 1412 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.