STUART HOGG has been named captain of a Scotland squad for the Six Nations Championship which contains six uncapped players. Alex Craig, Luke Crosbie, Tom Gordon, Nick Haining are the uncapped forwards, Ratu Tagive and Kyle Steyn the uncapped backs. The squad of 38 is made up of 17 backs and 21 forwards.
Cornell du Preez, Huw Jones and Matt Scott are among those who return to the squad after being left out, while Ryan Wilson, Duncan Taylor, Blade Thomson, Matt Fagerson, Nick Grigg, Mark Bennett, Gordon Reid, Pete Horne and Richie Gray are among the most notable omissions. Sam Skinner, currently making his way back from injury, is also omitted.
Gray and Thomson are currently out of action with head injuries, while Fagerson has a fractured rib. Head coach Gregor Townsend said he is hopeful that all three will come into contention later in the championship, and also suggested that Glasgow’s Bruce Flockhart would have come into the running but for injury. Harlequins utility back James Lang, who was capped twice on the 2018 summer tour, has been ruled out with a torn hamstring.
Taylor was already struggling for selection in a highly competitive position, and Townsend explained that the fact he is likely to play for Saracens on the Sunday before the team’s Six Nations opener against Ireland on Saturday 1st February counted against him being involved in this initial squad.
Of the newcomers, Glasgow winger Steyn was in the wider World Cup squad before being left out of the final 31 and Crosbie was in the wider squad for last year’s Six Nations, but the other four are complete newcomers. Tagive, like Steyn a Warriors winger, qualifies on residential grounds, having moved to Glasgow in 2016. Warriors flanker Tom Gordon is from New Zealand but is Scottish qualified through his grandparents and played for Scotland Under 20s whilst playing club rugby for Currie Chieftains, while Edinburgh’s Australian-born back-row Nick Haining also qualifies through lineage. Gloucester lock Alex Craig has also played for Scotland Under-20s.
Edinburgh prop Rory Sutherland will hope to make his first appearance since the last of his three caps against Japan in the summer of 2016, as one of three loose-heads named in the squad alongside Allan Dell and Jamie Bhatti.
Speaking on the official SRU website, Townsend explained his decision to appoint Hogg as captain. “Stuart is very passionate about playing for Scotland and he’s determined to do all he can to improve Scotland,” he said. “He really cares about playing for his country, what the jersey represents and also getting the best out of his teammates.
“He’s a really intelligent rugby player who’s is learning and improving with every season. He’s very good at bringing others into the game and building relationships with those around him.
“He’s very well respected by our coaching and playing group but that isn’t based on the accolades he’s earned. It’s more about what he does every day at training.
“He brings energy, is very accurate, he stays out to longer to work on his game and more often than not he’s the loudest player on the field, guiding or congratulating his teammates.
“He really wanted to take on the honour and responsibility of being captain, which was a huge positive and – having heard his plans for how he would work as a captain and work to bring the best out of others, while being able to focus on his own game – meant it became a relatively straightforward decision.”
Scotland squad for Six Nations Championship:
Backs: Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Chris Harris (Gloucester), Adam Hastings (Glasgow), Stuart Hogg (Exeter, captain), George Horne (Glasgow), Rory Hutchinson (Northampton), Sam Johnson (Glasgow), Huw Jones (Glasgow), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Byron McGuigan (Sale), Ali Price (Glasgow), Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Kyle Steyn (Glasgow), Ratu Tagive (Glasgow).
Fowards: Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow), Alex Craig (Gloucester), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Scott Cummings (Glasgow), Allan Dell (London Irish), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow), Tom Gordon (Glasgow), Nick Haining (Edinburgh), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Cornell du Preez (Worcester), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh).