Six new faces in Scotland squad

Six new faces in Scotland squad

Head Coach Gregor Townsend today named six uncapped players in a 38-man Scotland squad for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.

The group features four players named in a senior men’s squad for the first time. We took a look at their road to national team selection and got the thoughts of the Head Coach on their individual merits…

Alex Craig (Gloucester second-row, 22)

Born in Dumfries, Alex is a former Scotland U20 international second-row, who was on dual registration with Hartpury RFC for the 2018/19 season.

He missed a part of his breakthrough season with a knee injury but returned to competitive action before it was over to earn promotion to the Gloucester first team squad ahead of the current campaign, making 11 appearances to date.

Townsend: “Alex has really impressed with Gloucester, his work rate has been outstanding, especially in defence. He’s also shown an explosive and powerful ball-carrying ability in attack.

“Gloucester are one of the leading clubs in England, so for Alex to get in that pack shows how well he’s been playing. He adds to a very competitive group of second-rows.”

Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh back-row, 22)

A product of Livingston RFC, Luke Crosbie transferred to Currie Chieftains as a teenager, where he progressed into the club’s first XV.

He continued to impress in the Tennent’s Premiership alongside his development in the FOSROC Scottish Rugby Academy, subsequently earning selection in the Scotland U20 squad for the 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia, where he played a major role in helping the age-grade side to its highest-ever finish of fifth.

The mobile loose forward has made 35 appearances for the Edinburgh club to date.

Townsend: “Luke started the season really well with Edinburgh and, although he’s not had as many starts in recent weeks, when he’s had opportunities, he’s kept that form up.

Tom Gordon (Glasgow Warriors back-row, 22)

Tom Gordon joined Glasgow Warriors in the summer of 2018, having spent three seasons in the FOSROC Scottish Rugby Academy alongside playing for Currie Chieftains in the Tennent’s Premiership.

Born in New Zealand, he qualifies for Scotland through his grandparents and was capped at U20 level for Scotland.

Gordon’s first appearance in a Glasgow shirt came in the pre-season friendly against Harlequins in Perth in August 2018, playing his part in a 50-17 win.

The flanker claimed the man-of-the-match award on his first start at Scotstoun, impressing in a 34-10 victory over Edinburgh.

He has made 14 appearances for the club to date.

Townsend: “Both he and Bruce [Flockhart] were outstanding in Glasgow’s away win against Treviso a couple of weeks ago.

“Although Bruce misses out through injury, Tom has carried on his good form he showed at the end of last season, as he has been impressive every time he’s played for Glasgow. He’s an openside that has huge potential.

“He can be a dominant and accurate defender but also has good foot movement and evasion, which enables him to get through tackles in attack.”

Nick Haining (Edinburgh back-row, 29)

The 6ft 4in, 115kg flanker – who has previously represented Jersey Reds – joined Edinburgh from Bristol Bears ahead of the 2019/20 season following two years at Ashton Gate.

Haining joined Bristol from Jersey Reds at the beginning of the 2017/18 season, having been one of the Channel Islanders’ standout performers in the English Championship.

In his first year in the West Country, the back-row played a pivotal role in helping Bristol to an immediate return to the Premiership.

He scored eight tries in 33 appearances during his two seasons in Bristol and has made 13 appearances since joining the capital club.

He is eligible to play for Scotland through his grandmother from Dundee.

Townsend: “We’ve been really pleased at how Nick’s adapted to playing for Edinburgh.

“He’s a big man but he’s got really good skills in terms of his handling, lineout work and evasion when carrying ball.

Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors wing / centre, 25)

Glasgow Warriors announced the signing of Scotland 7s wing Kyle Steyn on a one-year deal ahead of the 2019/20 season.

Steyn was available to play for his new club when he was not playing on the sevens circuit and made his debut in a 38-34 win over Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park five days after signing.

The wing/centre played in six HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments for Scotland but forced his way into the Glasgow Warriors backline long before his one-year deal even started.

A former student at the University of Stellenbosch, South African-born Steyn (whose mother Gillian is from Glasgow) played in the Currie Cup for the Griquas and was named as the side’s captain for their 2018 campaign before joining up with the sevens side.

He was named in Townsend’s wider squad for Rugby World Cup 2019 but missed out on selection for the final 31-man group.

He has made 23 appearances for the Scotstoun club.

Townsend: “Kyle had a breakthrough season last year and trained very well when he was included in our wider World Cup training squad.

“It was always going to be tough for Kyle given that he hadn’t played international rugby going into a World Cup, but his effort and professionalism impressed us. We see him primarily as a wing but we know how well he played as a 13 in a run of games for Glasgow last season.

“He’s a learner and a hard worker.”

Ratu Tagive (Glasgow Warriors wing, 28)

Ratu Tagive made his debut for Glasgow Warriors against Ospreys in February 2017, having joined from playing Shute Shield rugby for Eastern Suburbs.

He scored a try on his home debut for the Warriors, collecting a cross-field kick to touch down against the Dragons in March 2017.

His roots stem from Rugby League, where he spent time at NRL teams Bulldogs and West Tigers before moving to Canberra to study.

It was at University he took up the 15-a-side code and was recognised by local clubs before being picked up by Super Rugby side ACT Brumbies and Australia 7s.

He has made 10 appearances in his time at Scotstoun.

Townsend: “Again, Ratu has worked really hard at his game he’s and transferred it into some very good performances this year.

“He started for Glasgow against Cardiff and then Sale in the Champions Cup, which says something given the amount of quality back three players they have at the club

Total recall…

The squad also features the return of Edinburgh pair Matt Scott (centre) and Rory Sutherland (prop), both of whom last featured for Scotland in victories on the road over Australia (2017) and Japan (2016) respectively.

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