Ben Toolis looks to lock down Scotland summer tour spot

As someone who was born and raised in Queensland, the prospect of facing Australia in Sydney this summer obviously holds a great lure for Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis.

Ben Toolis hopes to add to his solitary Test cap this summer but before that he is focusing on Saturdays 1872 Cup return at Scotstoun. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

The 25-year-old, who qualifies for Scotland through his mother Linda from Carluke, knows that, in one of the most competitive positions, just getting himself into Gregor Townsend’s tour squad would be an achievement.

Toolis is still waiting to add a second Test cap to the debut he made off the bench against Italy in the 2015 Six Nations and his involvement in the national squads has given him a tantalising glimpse of again pulling on that dark blue jersey.

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However, with the Gray brothers Jonny and Richie clear first choices, Glasgow’s Tim Swinson snapping at their heels and Toolis’s club captain Grant Gilchrist coming back to form, he is well aware of the battle he faces.

A Lions selection for a Gray brother or two would have been a help, but Toolis says that is not a factor he has considered. “No, not at all,” he said. “That didn’t really cross my mind. I don’t want to make the team based on other boys being injured or not being around. I want to try and play my way into the team.”

Toolis reckons he has a chance and added: “Obviously, I am hoping to do it. I’d be quite excited to go. It would be a strange one for me, going to Australia and being involved there, but I’m hoping for that. I’ve got to try and play well this week, get through uninjured and unharmed and see what comes from that. I’ll be looking to hopefully be involved. We just have to wait and see.”

The tour would represent a homecoming of sorts as Scotland head to the southern hemisphere to face the Wallabies, Fiji and Italy in Singapore.

“I have been to Singapore when I was younger. I didn’t play any rugby there, so this would be a different experience,” added Toolis. “I’ve been to Tonga but I’ve never been to Fiji. I have played rugby in Tonga so I’m sure the climate and environment will be similar. It would be something to look forward to and hopefully I’m involved.”

For now, though, all that is on Toolis’s mind is Saturday evening’s season-ending 1872 Cup return against Glasgow at Scotstoun, which is being viewed by many as, effectively, a Scotland tour trial.

Edinburgh’s two-year grip on the trophy is looking more than a little precarious after a 25-12 loss in the home game on Boxing Day. “Obviously, Glasgow are a very good side and playing at Scotstoun is going to be very tough,” he said. “They got one over us at Murrayfield, but we have won the last two years. We know that we can put some decent scores on.

“We haven’t had the best season this year but it is a derby game and we want to finish off well, especially with the confidence from last week, and going into next season as well with Richard Cockerill coming in.

“It is important for us to put in a good performance. I don’t think the boys think about the aggregate; they just want to put in a really good performance and see what happens. We’re looking forward to it.”

Toolis said it was important to get the monkey of a nine-game losing streak off their back with that 24-20 win over Dragons which brought the curtain down on the initial trial period at Myreside.

“It was a very frustrating game, especially the first 70 minutes when it seemed we were making error after error. We couldn’t hold on to the ball,” he reflected.

“For the first 25 minutes we seemed to be playing well, but a few errors led to them scoring points and our heads and our confidence went down a bit. But then something just clicked and we managed to play really well for the last ten minutes. So yeah, it was quite pleasing to get the win. By our reactions it showed what kind of season we have had. But it was also because coming back the way we did was exciting. We know how we can play. It was a good win.

“Playing at Myreside you can tell the difference in terms of atmosphere. It is obviously not the quality of the Murrayfield pitch, but it was enjoyable. We’re still adapting to it I guess.”