EDINBURGH’S versatile back Greig Tonks will be handed the chance to play his way into the Six Nations reckoning with a start in the No 10 jersey for Scotland A next Friday night.
The 24-year-old was shifted from full-back to stand-off by Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons when he lost Harry Leonard to an injury room that already included his rivals Gregor Hunter and Piers Francis.
Tonks has impressed Scott Johnson and, speaking at yesterday’s RBS Six Nations launch in London, the Scotland coach said that, while ruled out of the opening squad against Ireland, Tonks could come into contention for the Calcutta Cup match against the country he represented at age-grade level.
“I want him to have time in the saddle,” Johnson said. “I was saying on the tour last summer that the kid, to me, plays like a ten, so I’m really happy to have a look and see where he takes it.
“It’s another rung on the ladder for him. He’s been good defensively in close quarters, which I like, he’s got good footy instincts, and the more the merrier in that position. We can’t have enough there and I’m quite intrigued by it.”
Asked whether a good performance would push him into contention for the game with England, Johnson said: “Anybody who is playing in that ‘A’ game could.
“We need some questions answered about people. Is he an international player? We need to find out. We’ll do that on the summer tour again, but I’m having a look at players here too. If players perform then they’re in.
“If Tonksy makes a good fist of that ten spot against England Saxons, then he has the versatility going on there too, which makes him a good thing for the [Scotland squad of] 23. All of these guys out there we need to find out about and that’s why I’m really happy with the A game, and I’m really happy with that squad because of it.”
Johnson remains unclear whether tighthead prop Euan Murray will recover from thumb – suffered chopping wood for a barbecue – and Achilles injuries in time to feature in the latter stages of the tournament but insisted that, while he would be a loss, it might answer questions about the ability of Moray Low and Geoff Cross to be part of Scotland’s future.
“Selfishly, it’s really disappointing because he [Murray] is a world-class tighthead and a wonderful rugby player when he’s on song, if you’re talking about being competitive all the time with this team,” Johnson said.
“But the other thing is that it’s an opportunity now. All the time that we’re waiting for Euan to get well it’s a good time for someone else to stand up now.
“I’ve always been for growing the team, the depth and the character of these players. We need to find out about people. Who can do it? I don’t know. In six or eight or ten weeks I’ll be a bit clearer on the answer, and that’s a great thing for Scotland.
“Opportunities aren’t easily given at this level so now that they have it’s important that they take it.”
THE SCOTSMAN RUGBY SHOW IN ASSOCIATION WITH GINGER GROUSE