Cotter’s squad was already stretched to the limit but went beyond breaking point when the reinforcements arrived in Argentina without Edinburgh No 8 David Denton. He has still not recovered from a head knock sustained in the final game of the club season in May.
Cotter has the bare minimum of four back rows for Friday’s match against Argentina in Cordoba – Kieran Low and Blair Cowan from London Irish plus Glasgow Warriors’ Chris Fusaro and Rob Harley. Three will start with one on the bench.
Cotter’s problem for the South Africa game in ten days is that Low and Cowan are banned from playing by their club as the match is outwith the IRB international “window”.
Potential replacements, such as Ross Rennie and John Barclay, are injured so a likely solution will be to raid the group preparing for the Commonwealth Games Sevens.
James Eddie, the Glasgow flanker, and Roddy Grant, his Edinburgh rival, would be obvious candidates, although Richie Vernon, who was a specialist No 8 before trying to convert to centre could still be pressed into service. Glasgow’s Tyrone Holmes is another option.
Denton’s withdrawal was a surprise. While it was known that he suffered a concussion against Leinster, that was six weeks ago and it appeared likely he would have recovered by now. However, after recent publicity highlighting the issue, led by The Scotsman, international coaches and their medical staff were never going to take even the slightest risk.
However he was due to be the only specialist No 8 for this section of the tour, which leaves Cotter to decide which of the specialist flankers should fill that role instead.