With their first autumn Test just nine days away, Scotland have been assaulted by the same injury crisis that seems to be affecting the whole sport of rugby.
Whether it is a blip or par for the professional course only time will tell but the number of injuries at the top of the game is reaching epidemic proportions.
Matt Scott, David Denton, Ryan Grant, Grant Gilchrist and Ryan Wilson are all either injured or have only recently returned to action and are not deemed Test-match fit. Two of Scotland’s most experienced scrum-halves were also unable to take any significant part in a Newcastle squad session.
Chris Cuister has a calf strain and Greig Laidlaw has suffered deep bruising to his lower leg. While both are expected to be fit for the Argentina Test, Scotland head coach Vern Cotter doubts either will play for their clubs this weekend, leaving them a little undercooked for a Test match a week on Saturday.
On top of the scrum-half crisis, neither of Scotland’s two best centres did much. Mark Bennett has a sore knee and Alex Dunbar had a repetition of the thigh problem that kept him out of action for five weeks ahead of Glasgow’s European tie in Montpellier, where he only lasted until half time.
Bennett is the form player in Scotland and should recover in time to make his international debut against Argentina but Dunbar is a real doubt, especially since he has had so little rugby in recent weeks. If Dunbar does not recover in time, and he may be asked to prove his fitness this Friday for Glasgow, then Saracens’ Duncan Taylor would be the favourite to fill the No 12 shirt inside Bennett.
In addition, Johnnie Beattie was another player who spent most of the time in Newcastle on the sidelines.
The breakaway is the only specialist No 8 in the squad with much experience in the bank and Cotter cannot afford to lose him at this stage.