The biggest takeaways from Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad

Paul Eddison
04 September 2019

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It has been a long time since a Scotland coach had as many difficult decisions to make as Gregor Townsend when naming his squad for the Rugby World Cup.

From the back row to the centres, via a plethora of locks, Townsend had a wealth of options to choose from, and inevitably a number of top-quality players to disappoint.

On Tuesday the former Glasgow Warriors head man revealed the lucky 31 who will represent Scotland in Japan.

And it was perhaps in the midfield that he had the trickiest calls to make.

CENTRE OPTIONS

It is a sign of the depth at Townsend’s disposal that the likes of Kyle Steyn, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott and Alex Dunbar were not part of the training squad by the time the warm-up matches started.

That still left two players to cut with Rory Hutchinson and Glasgow Warriors’ Huw Jones the two to miss out in the end. We are closer to knowing the first-choice centre pairing, as Jones’ Glasgow teammate Sam Johnson is starting alongside Duncan Taylor in the final warm-up clash with Georgia.

Chris Harris and the versatile Peter Horne are the other options in the midfield for Townsend.

Taylor, in particular, has spent much of the last two seasons injured, so Jones and Hutchinson will need to be ready in case someone does go down during the competition.

BACK ROW DECISIONS

The other position of massive depth was in the back row, where Edinburgh alone could claim to have four players worthy of selection.

Three of them, John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie (pictured) made it, with Magnus Bradbury narrowly missing out as injury has prevented him from showing what he can do for much of the summer.

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It is a mark of Bradbury’s professionalism that he will feature in the final game against Georgia despite not making the squad, and he will surely be the next cab off the rank if there is an injury.

The other two back-rowers included are Glasgow Warriors’ Ryan Wilson, comfortable either at flanker or at No.8 and set to captain the side for the first time on Friday, and Scarlets’ Blade Thomson.

The Welsh side have not yet seen much of the man they recruited last summer, injury keeping him out for much of the campaign.

However Thomson has shown enough to Townsend that he can be the hard-carrying No.8 that Scotland have been looking for, keeping youngster Matt Fagerson out on this occasion.

CUMMINGS’ LATE CHARGE

While one young Glasgow Warriors forward narrowly missed the cut, another has forced his way in as Scott Cummings makes the final 31.

A standout for the Warriors in their run to the Guinness PRO14 final, Cummings then made his international bow this summer against France.

Over the course of three matches he did enough to earn a spot, filling the gap left by the injured Sam Skinner.

He will partner club colleague Jonny Gray in the final warm-up match and be looking to move even further up the pecking order with another good performance.

FALLBACK OPTIONS

As well as Bradbury, the other non-traveller taking on the Lelos on Friday is Grant Stewart, the Warriors hooker.

He missed out to George Turner in the final shakeup, but will be ready and waiting if required, particularly with Fraser Brown having not yet appeared for Scotland in the World Cup preparation.

Townsend will be hoping not to have to call up any players due to injuries, but given the strength in depth he has at his disposal, he will not be short of options.

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