SCOTLAND’S top two full-backs, Stuart Hogg and Peter Murchie, have both been ruled out of this autumn’s Test series through injury.
Former Crusaders winger Sean Maitland, who joined Glasgow last season, made his debut for Scotland in the RBS Six Nations and went on to tour with the British and Irish Lions, is now in pole position to take the No 15 jersey for the games with Japan, South Africa and Australia next month.
Maitland started at full-back for Glasgow last week, but the club was hopeful that Hogg would return for Sunday’s opening Heineken Cup match away to reigning champions Toulon. However, it was discovered that his wrist injury was more serious than first envisaged, and he has now undergone surgery to repair a damaged scaphoid bone.
It follows confirmation that Murchie, also in good form for Scotland and Glasgow this year, is expected to be out of action until March, meaning he will also miss the Six Nations Championship, after suffering a dislocated shoulder playing for Stirling County.
Scotland’s interim head coach Scott Johnson admitted it was a blow, but insisted that Maitland would provide a good alternative and it would merely continue his process of blooding players ahead of the 2015 World Cup.
“It is not ideal but I work on the theory it gives us an opportunity to look at somebody else,” he said. “Stuart is an integral part of us going forward but with Murch injured as well this is an opportunity to look at somebody else.
“As much as we think Hoggy or someone else is a wonderful player we can’t get to the stage that we are that vulnerable for one person. We have bigger fish to fry further down the track and who is to say player X or player Y can do the job we want them to do?”
Johnson revealed that he was already looking to introduce young uncapped players this autumn, expressing his pleasure with the development of Glasgow lock Jonny Gray and others currently under the radar, and when asked if Tommy Allan – the under-20 fly-half named this week in the Italian squad – was one of them, he said that that would be up to the youngster.
Johnson was appearing at a launch of a new record, Bottle of Whisky, which he and the Scotland squad recorded with Glasgow singer Frankie Miller, to raise funds for Scottish rugby’s injured players’ charity, The Murrayfield Centenary Fund, and two charities close to Miller’s heart, ENABLE and Equalsay, which both work with the learning disabled in Glasgow.
Typically Johnson, in its off-the-wall style, it was an effort to develop the team spirit in the squad, he said, adding that it was another element in his push to encourage players to want to be part of the national squad.
To that end, Johnson insisted that he would not be offering pro contracts or places in his squad simply to persuade Allan to throw his lot in with Scotland.
“It was a surprise [to see him chosen by Italy],” he said, “but from day one I only want kids that want to play for Scotland.
“I made phone calls because it was a surprise and I will leave it at that until the kid gets back to me. But rest assured whether it is Tommy Allan or some other player, I say to the players all the time they are custodians of the jersey and I am custodian of the coaching fraternity, so I only want people to play for Scotland who want to play for Scotland and that is it.”