SCOTLAND were dealt a late injury blow before flying out to South Africa with experienced hooker Ross Ford being forced to withdraw.
The 29-year-old, who has won 69 caps for Scotland and one with the British and Irish Lions, suffered calf pain during training on Wednesday and scans have revealed a tear, which will require at least six weeks recovery.
The Edinburgh player was hugely disappointed to be told the news, particularly after he missed out on selection for the Lions tour down under, which kicks off in Hong Kong today, but it opens the door for Scott Lawson to bring his 36 caps of experience to the party.
The 31-year-old, who joins Newcastle from London Irish this summer, last played in the fateful loss to Tonga in Aberdeen last November which led to Andy Robinson’s resignation, but with head coach Scott Johnson taking uncapped duo Pat MacArthur and Stevie Lawrie he was keen to have an experienced replacement in Ford’s place.
Lawson joined the squad yesterday morning before they headed to Edinburgh Airport for the start of the flights to Durban, where they will be based in the lead-up to their first quadrangular Castle Tournament Test against Samoa next Saturday.
Johnson revealed: “Ross Ford pulled up in training in Aviemore on Wednesday. He was scanned at Spire Murrayfield Hospital and a calf tear was diagnosed, recovery from which takes, on average, more than six weeks.
“It’s unfortunate for Ross but, looking on the bright side, it will give him the chance to have an off-season, which can do him good. It also gives an opportunity to assess other players, which is one of the key things this tour is about.
“It’s a time then for Scott and the two hookers already named in the tour party, Pat and Stevie, to compete for places.”
It provides a great opportunity for the 29-year-old Lawrie, in particular, who has on form at Edinburgh and is determined to inject fresh competition for the Scotland No2 jersey.
• The Scotsman will be covering the Scotland tour from Durban, Nelspruit and Pretoria, in association with Glengoyne Whisky. Full reports from our chief rugby writer David Ferguson will appear in The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday, starting on Monday, and a unique tour diary will feature on scotsman.com. You can also follow David on twitter - @davidferg - for the latest news and views from the Scotland camp.