GREGOR Townsend has named seven uncapped players – three of them hookers – in a squad of 39 for the Six Nations Championship. Grant Stewart of Glasgow Warriors, David Cherry of Edinburgh, and Jake Kerr of Leicester Tigers are the three hookers. Newcastle back-row forward Gary Graham returns after being included in the squad but not capped in the Autumn Tests, while Glasgow tighthead D’Arcy Rae also features. The other two uncapped players are Edinburgh centre Chris Dean and Glasgow centre Sam Johnson.
Openside John Hardie is back in the squad for the first time since his move from Edinburgh to Newcastle, but there is no room for Edinburgh scrum-half Henry Pyrgos. Eighteen Glasgow Warriors players are in the squad, and 12 from Edinburgh.
“There’s certainly been a lot of improvement from this group of players in recent seasons and I believe there’s much more to come,” Townsend said. “They’ve a genuine desire to get better and reach their potential in what is a huge year for our sport.
“In the past 18 months we’ve played 18 Test matches and have introduced 18 new players to Test-level rugby. Once again, our squad features players aiming to take that step, which is a testimony to their performances this season and the growing strength in depth of Scottish rugby.
“We are very proud of what a number of our players have achieved since the Autumn Tests, particularly with Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors both aiming to make the last eight of the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time and both sitting in strong positions in their respective Guinness PRO14 conferences.
“We’ve also seen some excellent performances from players representing clubs in France and England, which is a credit to their commitment and work ethic.
“It is a privilege for our players to be involved in the Guinness Six Nations, which is such a prestigious tournament and will be highly competitive once again. We look forward to taking on the challenge of Italy and working hard as a squad over the next two weeks to deliver a winning performance.”
There is a lengthy list of players who are unavailable due to injury, some of whom should be available for the later games in the Championship. Scotland start their campaign with two home games – against Italy on 2 February, then Ireland on the 9th.
SCOTLAND SQUAD FOR SIX NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP
Backs (17): Chris Dean (Edinburgh), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (captain, Clermont Auvergne), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors).
Forwards (22): Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors), Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors), David Cherry (Edinburgh), Allan Dell (Edinburgh), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), John Hardie (Newcastle Falcons), Jake Kerr (Leicester Tigers), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) Willem Nel (Edinburgh), D’Arcy Rae (Glasgow Warriors), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs), Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors), Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).
Unavailable through injury: John Barclay (Edinburgh), Mark Bennett (Edinburgh), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Lewis Carmichael (Edinburgh), David Denton (Leicester Tigers), Cornell Du Preez (Worcester Warriors), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Toulouse), Luke Hamilton (Edinburgh), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh), Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Blade Thomson (Scarlets), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons).