Scotland head coach Vern Cotter challenged debutant Magnus Bradbury to “make it as hard as possible to take the jersey off him” after naming the 21-year-old Edinburgh flanker in his team to face Argentina in the second autumn Test.
The youngster is one of four changes from the side that lost 23-22 to Australia at the weekend, with Tommy Seymour back on the wing, lock Grant Gilchrist replacing Richie Gray, who has a possible concussion, and Fraser Brown in at hooker for cap centurion Ross Ford.
Bradbury was not initially named in the official squad but was invited to train and, after a couple of injuries, finds himself promoted to the starting line-up at blindside flanker. Cotter reported yesterday that Edinburgh openside John Hardie, who came off against Australia with a combination of ankle, knee and concussion problems, is looking at a six to eight-week lay-off after undergoing ankle surgery yesterday.
Ryan Wilson came off with a lacerated ankle on Saturday but is fit enough to take a place on the bench.
Asked about the Bradbury selection, Cotter said: “He was playing well for his club. We’ve had a couple of injuries and he’s impressed us at training so he gets this opportunity and it’s a great one for him.
“He’s athletic and we are playing against a team which moves the ball quickly, he’s well balanced with his tackle and defence. He’s not a one dimensional player, he can jump in the lineout and turnover the ball in post-tackle situations. He carries well and he moves across the ground.”
A former Scotland Under-20 captain, Bradbury is a product of the Oban Lorne club and a former Merchiston Castle pupil. His mother Dee Bradbury was elected vice-president of the SRU in the summer.
The back-row forward made his Edinburgh debut as a teenager in 2014 before breaking into the first team squad last season and making several appearances. This season has seen him establish himself as a first-choice starter and he has been in impressive form.
Cotter called-up South Africa-born Edinburgh back-rower Cornell du Preez this week in response the injury list but has opted not to name him in the squad this week.
“We try to get guys in early to give them an idea of what’s going on and it would probably would have been too early for him,” said the Kiwi.
“Magnus has impressed us with his training and he gets an opportunity. We know Josh [Strauss] is out injured and Ryan couldn’t train at the start of the week. We also had quite a few players who couldn’t train until today because of the physicality of last week’s game.
“Knowing Saturdays is going to be fast and physical again against Argentina then we have Magnus who is fully fit so he gets in there.
“He has impressed, he really has. We brought Cornell in so he can have a look at what we’re trying to achieve – and you never know what’s going to happen against Georgia [the following Saturday].
“If a player gets the jersey, we want him to make it as hard as possible for us to take it off him. That means Magnus.
“And the injured players who didn’t get the run, they will be looking on thinking ‘If he plays well, when do I get it back?’
“So it’s all out there for Magnus. This is a great opportunity for him.”
The loss of Richie Gray, who was outstanding last weekend, is a blow but gives Grant Gilchrist his first start since he suffered the latter of two long-term injuries against the United States in the World Cup.
Gilchrist captained the Scots to victory over Argentina in Cordoba two years ago and came off the bench against the Aussies.
On Gray, Cotter said: “We’ve listed it as possible concussion because we’re unsure if it’s concussion or a neck issue. We’re having a look to see if he’s getting headaches from his neck. We’re just covering all bases.
“He came back on to the pitch [on Saturday] and was fine for two days. But now he’s getting headaches. So this is precautionary. We don’t want to put him out there until we know what it is, at least.”
Seymour returns to earn his 30th cap after missing the Australia game due to a personal reasons.