THERE are no revolving doors in Scotland’s countryside training base, but it does seem like it.
Two more front rows rumbled into Nelspruit yesterday while captain Kelly Brown left the camp, following Pat MacArthur and Geoff Cross in heading back to the UK with injuries. For Fraser Brown and Gordon Reid the flights south of the equator were a stunning surprise at the end of their first week of pre-season training with Glasgow. The Warriors already had a strong representation on the summer tour, as well as supplying three of the now-four Scots on the British and Irish Lions trip, but now have supplied Scotland with a whole new front row as Brown and Reid join Jon Welsh as tour call-ups.
Which of the trio finds himself propelled into the Test arena we will discover with the team selection today, but all three are primed for that possibility. “It would be amazing if it happens,” said Brown. “It has been a strange 24 hours – last weekend I was shearing sheep and now I’m in the Scotland squad thinking about Springboks.”
Where he was warned by Scotland team manager Gavin Scott on Sunday that Lawrie had an injury and he was on stand-by, Reid’s call-up was more hurried. Initially, the management were confident that tighthead prop Euan Murray would recover from a hamstring injury but when he was put through his paces closer to 100 per cent late on yesterday the pain returned, prompting a hurried call from Scott in the late afternoon, with 90 minutes to spare to the last flight of the day that would get the former Ayr player to Nelspruit yesterday.
“I got the call about 3.30pm,” explained Reid. “I was at training with Glasgow and Gregor [Townsend] brought the boys in, and I thought it was going to be bad news. I thought something had happened, but then he said he wanted to congratulate me for getting onto the Scotland tour. This is a real honour to be here, but to get on the park against South Africa would be outstanding – not just for myself but for my girlfriend, my family and friend who have supported me all the way, and all the guys at Glasgow Warriors and Ayr.”
If Murray’s hamstring eases, Welsh is likely to go on to the bench, but if Murray is ruled out, Moray Low or Welsh will start at tighthead with Alasdair Dickinson at loosehead, and Welsh or Low on the bench with Reid.
At hooker, Scott Lawson will start with Lawrie on the bench, but if Lawrie’s back fails to pass fitness tests then opportunity will knock for Brown.
Of all the teams you do not want to face with a weakened front row South Africa probably tops the list, so what was always a tough assignment, to beat the Springboks in South Africa for the first time in history, has steepened considerably. Jim Hamilton and Tim Swinson are expected to come into the pack to provide a more physical second row with Alasdair Strokosch, David Denton and Ryan Wilson likely to provide as physical a back row as is available.
The flip side of the daily injury changes, however, has been the excitement generated by the new faces. Reid is a popular figure and his try from halfway against the Dragons was one of the highlights of the season. He came through the ranks at Ayr but only in the past year has he become a contender on the pro stage, aged 26, and sat on the Scotland bench for November’s ill-fated Tonga match. “I was disappointed not to get on, but these things happen,” he said. “It was just an honour to be there, to sit on the bench and to sing the national anthem. Now, I’ve got the chance again, so hopefully we can maybe take it forward and actually get on the pitch.”
Brown is quite the opposite. A Scotland captain at age-grade level, he suffered a neck injury when taken on by Edinburgh, which stopped him appearing before being released.
He joined former Merchiston Castle coach Mark Appleson when at a loose end in the capital and joined him at Heriot’s.
He impressed in the Heriot’s back row, his neck operated on and secure and this season appeared for Glasgow off the bench as cover and got a year’s contract for next season.