Former Hurricanes star in Scotland squad to face Boks
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Head coach Gregor Townsend named three uncapped players in a 40-man Scotland squad for the 2018 November Tests.
The uncapped trio are Scarlets back-row Blade Thomson, Exeter Chiefs lock Sam Skinner and Glasgow Warriors centre Sam Johnson.
Thomson and Skinner are eligible for the national team through family connections, Thomson through his paternal grandfather, Robert, from Wishaw, while Skinner’s father, Peter, is from Ayr.
Skinner (23) was first involved in the then Scottish Exiles (now Scottish Qualified) programme as a teenager, while at Taunton Titans, before he joined the Chiefs in the 2014/15 season.
He was then selected for England Under-20 – and faced many of his Scotland contemporaries in the age-grade Six Nations – before becoming an increasingly prominent part of the Exeter squad that won the English Premiership title for the first time in 2017 and finished as runners-up in last year’s final.
Gregor Townsend has named his squad for the upcoming Autumn Tests. Watch below to find out about the four scrum-halves named in the squad.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 17, 2018
Thomson (27) arrived in west Wales from Super Rugby side Hurricanes, having represented New Zealand U20 and the Maori All Blacks, and has been a stand-out performer for the Llanelli side in his debut Pro14 season.
Johnson (25) is eligible for Scotland on residency grounds, having joined Glasgow Warriors in 2015.
The Australian-born centre has been a popular figure at the Scotstoun club, making 40 appearances since his arrival and voted last year’s Players’ Player of the Season by his peers.
The squad also welcomes the return of several seasoned campaigners who missed the June tour either through injury or a scheduled rest, which sees the likes of Alex Dunbar, Jonny Gray, Huw Jones, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Willem Nel, Gordon Reid, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Ryan Wilson and Hamish Watson all back in the squad.
The selection also marks the return of centre Matt Scott and scrumhalf Henry Pyrgos, who last featured in a Scotland shirt in the side’s 2017 wins over Australia in Sydney in June and Edinburgh last November, respectively.
Scotland will face Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, November 3 and contest the ‘Doddie Weir Cup’, as both teams honour the former Scotland and British & Irish Lions player diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
Scotland will then return home to Murrayfield for three home Tests against Fiji, South Africa and Argentina on the consecutive Saturdays that follow (10, 17 and 24 November).
BREAKING | Here’s your Scotland squad for the 2018 Autumn Tests including three uncapped players 🏴
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 17, 2018
“We now begin the last 12 months of our preparations for Rugby World Cup 2019 with four Test matches in four weeks, a similar challenge to the one we’ll face in Japan,” Townsend said.
“We’ve named a 40-man group for this campaign, which highlights the quality of player that is now available to us and the competition for places.
“It also enables us to welcome more players into our training environment and hopefully give a few more players a taste of Test match rugby.
“It’s going to be an exciting year for the squad but our primary focus is fixed on performing well against Wales – familiar opponents who have already recorded a win against us this year.”
Townsend added: “We had a productive summer tour in which a number of players made their first outing for their country.
“A lot of those players have continued to perform well for their clubs and have merited re-selection in a strong group.
“We also welcome Blade and both Sams into the squad. We are looking forward to working with them and getting our squad back together for the first time since the summer.
“It will be a very challenging series, with the Wales Test providing a very tough contest before three huge matches at Murrayfield later that month.”
Townsend has also invited Edinburgh back-row Luke Crosbie and wing Darcy Graham to train with the squad.
Forwards: Alex Allan, Simon Berghan, Magnus Bradbury, Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, David Denton, Matt Fagerson, Ross Ford, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Murray McCallum, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Gordon Reid, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Skinner, Blade Thomson, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Backs: Alex Dunbar, Dougie Fife, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, George Horne, Pete Horne, Sam Johnson, Huw Jones, Lee Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour.
Not considered through injury: John Barclay, Mark Bennett, Lewis Carmichael (all Edinburgh), Cornell du Preez (Worcester Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Toulouse), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens).