Andy Nicol ‘baffled’ by Hugh Blake’s Scotland call

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FORMER Scotland skipper Andy Nicol yesterday hit out at the selection of Hugh Blake for Scotland’s Six Nations squad, declaring himself “baffled” by the shock inclusion of the Kiwi.

Nicol confessed to not knowing who the 22-year-old was when the New Zealander was surprisingly named in the 32-man squad chosen by head coach Vern Cotter for his first-ever Six Nations. Blake only joined Edinburgh Rugby from Otago Highlanders in December and has not yet made a full appearance for the capital outfit.

But the former New Zealand under-20 cap, who qualifies to pull on the dark blue thanks to two Scottish grandparents, has been parachuted straight into the Scotland set-up ahead of the tournament opener against France in Paris on 7 February.

Nicol declared himself less than impressed with Blake’s inclusion when the 23-times capped former scrum-half, now a regular BBC pundit, blasted the flanker’s call-up yesterday.

Nicol said on Twitter: “There is something surely wrong when the Scotland squad for the Six Nations is announced and I have never heard of one of the players! Can anyone tell me anything about Hugh Blake please? Rest of squad is good but this one baffles me!”

Clearly citing the controversial fast-track call-up of “kilted Kiwi” Brendan Laney in 2001, Nicol later added: “Not played for Edinburgh but picked for Scotland? I thought we had left these days long ago!”

Fellow BBC summariser Peter Wright, the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions prop, shared Nicol’s surprise at Blake’s inclusion. Wright, currently coach of Selkirk, also questioned the exclusion of back rowers John Barclay and Kelly Brown, and prop Ryan Grant as he reacted to the squad.

He said on Twitter: “A real slap in the face for Barclay, Brown and Grant who IMO are all playing pretty well. Who Blake?!!”