SCOTT Johnson said that he wanted to turn up the heat on some international incumbents and has done so with his first autumn Test selection by picking Tim Swinson ahead of Richie Gray, as well as Tommy Seymour on the right wing against Japan.
With Tim Visser ruled out by injury there was an opening, but it was not a simple choice. Johnson could have stuck with Greig Tonks at full-back and brought back Sean Maitland on the wing, or gone for the experience of Max Evans. But he has faith in 25-year-old Seymour and, as with Swinson, was keen to reward those who shone on the summer tour.
Though both have earned their spurs at Glasgow, Seymour and Swinson are successes in Scotland’s scouting system, having come to this country from England and Ireland. Born in Nashville and schooled in Dubai and Belfast, Thomas Samuel Fenwick Seymour now feels wholly Scottish and agrees that a first appearance at Murrayfield is something of a clincher.
“I would say I felt very much a Scotland player out there [in South Africa],” he said, “and I got that strong buzz running out against South Africa, which was a huge privilege for me, but this is going to be another thing altogether.
“As soon as I got those caps, without taking anything for granted, I wanted to play here. That is every player’s dream – to run out at Murrayfield in front of the home crowd. It is something very, very special and will live with me for a long time.”
At 26, Swinson has come to Test rugby relatively late in life, on a pathway from Oundle School and Newcastle, via a stint in Australia, and with a middle name of Montagu that has been a godsend for wind-up merchants in the squad and marks him out from predecessors in the navy blue. He has jumped ahead of young talent Grant Gilchrist and added fresh competition for Scotland’s new British and Irish Lion but insisted that he is more interested in dismissing his own doubts this weekend.
“Thankfully, I don’t have to make decisions with players over who is picked or who is not because, if you did, you would tear your hair out,” he said.
“I leave it up to the coaches who have, hopefully, decided I have done enough to stay around. I have not really thought about it [pipping Gray to the jersey] as we are a squad but it is great to start at Murrayfield.
“One thing I still wonder about when I play is whether I deserve to be there. It is usually in the first instance of the game. I know it is stupid after my career already that I think that but, after the first tackle in South Africa, I thought ‘oh yeah, this is not that too bad. I can do this’. ”
Both he and Seymour know others will be pushing for places against South Africa in the second Test but they have the jerseys and are aiming for performances that will garner them a revenge mission against the Boks, and turn up the heat on more experienced rivals.
“To come away with the loss when we felt we should have won, and flattered them with the score at the end, was painful,” said Seymour. “Come the game at Murrayfield, we need to make sure we set records straight and put in a performance that can win the game. But, right now, it’s about Japan and I just want to make sure that, come the next selection meeting, I have put as strong a case as possible for filling that 14 shirt again.”
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