Warriors duo ready to resume fight for Scotland places

Fagerson possibly faces a bigger battle to get into Townsend’s squad than Brown

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

ZANDER Fagerson and Fraser Brown could both start for Glasgow against Ulster on Friday as they complete their comebacks from injury, but both men face a tough fight to get back into the Scotland squad for next weekend’s game against Ireland, according to Warriors assistant coach Kenny Murray.

Fagerson came off the bench in last week’s PRO14 defeat by Munster after being sidelined by a foot injury, while Brown has yet to play after being given the all-clear by a specialist investigating his concussions. The availability of the tighthead prop and the hooker will naturally be welcomed by Gregor Townsend – indeed, the Scotland coach had Fagerson back training with the squad in the fallow week between the France and England games – but such has been the form of the national team that neither man can presume he will be back in the matchday 23 to face the Irish or Italy.

It is not quite a case of “Crisis? What crisis?”  No matter how well the men in possession are performing, players of the calibre of Fagerson and Brown will always have their claims considered. But, after a countdown to the Six Nations in which Scotland were bedevilled by front-row injuries, the wins over France and England have highlighted how much depth there now is in both position.

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Stuart McInally was outstanding in the Calcutta Cup win, putting in his best display for Scotland and being widely hailed as a world-class hooker, while tighthead Berghan, his Edinburgh team-mate, has also risen to the occasion – a fact that has not been lost on Murray.

“Zander was out there running about and looking pretty good in training,” Murray said after an indoors training session at Toryglen. “He’ll be in contention for this weekend. He did well last week in his first game back and has had a good two days of training. All looking good.”

Fagerson an option for Townsend?

“It’s up to Gregor,” Murray continued when asked if he expected a recall for Fagerson. “We’ll see how he gets on in the game this weekend if he’s involved, and how he is physically and how his fitness is. He’s a quality player so I’m sure he’s in Gregor’s plans somewhere, but the guys who played on Saturday will be disappointed if they’re not involved, I would imagine. He will be there or thereabouts in contention depending on how he plays this weekend.

“The big thing for me is that Simon Berghan at the weekend played really well. It’s all right guys coming back, but they have to fight their way into the team.”

With Willem Nel having also returned from the injury and come on as a replacement for Berghan on Saturday, Fagerson possibly faces a bigger battle to get into Townsend’s squad than Brown, who would normally be further up the pecking order than Scott Lawson, currently No 2 to McInally. “Fraser didn’t play last week, but has trained fully this week and all things going well after today should be in contention [for Glasgow],” Murray added.

The priority for Murray and his colleagues, of course, is getting back to winning ways in Belfast after that loss last week. The Warriors still have a 12-point lead over Munster at the top of Conference A, but are keen to end the regular season with a decent run of results to take into the play-offs.

“We felt we had done enough to win the game – apart from our own errors, which pretty much killed us,” Murray said of the Munster defeat. “We probably should have had another try just before half-time that we didn’t take and then we gave them a soft try just after half-time, the ball going out at the back of a ruck.

“We’re disappointed with that, and we didn’t win the physicality battle with Munster. We’ve looked at that and at some of the things we need to do to be more physical against Ulster this week. We’re ready to go: it’s a big, big weekend for us.”

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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.