SCOTLAND head coach Scott Johnson could be pressed into fielding a new international openside flanker in South Africa next month after he chose not to replace John Barclay in his tour squad.
Barclay was the only specialist openside flanker named in the initial 31-man squad to take part in the quadrangular tournament, which also features the hosts, Samoa and Italy.
Barclay requires a shoulder operation and has been withdrawn from the squad, with Johnson flying out to Durban on Friday with 30 players for the three-match tournament. Barclay has left Glasgow Warriors after nine seasons at the club and joined the Welsh region Scarlets. He suffered the injury this season and it has now been decided he needs surgery before the tour to repair the damage and ensure he is fully fit when he joins the Scarlets in July.
Barclay remains committed to reviving his Test career and the loss of his experience – he has 41 caps – and ability at the breakdown does leave Johnson with a selection problem. Kelly Brown, the squad captain, is adept in the No 7 jersey, but there are no other clear options.
Alasdair Strokosch has the ability to play on both sides of the scrum and has shown with Perpignan and Scotland that he can be a good link player as well as the more bull-headed style of blindside prevalent in the northern hemisphere.
However, Johnson is keen to develop a quicker style of game with Scotland, one that requires skilful breakdown work and quick ball, and has said that he wishes to return to recognised, specialist opensides. Glasgow’s promising talent Chris Fusaro is just back from injury and is probably not ready for Test matches, but returning Warrior Richie Vernon was available.
l In a report on Glasgow Warriors yesterday, we incorrectly stated that Byron McGuigan was one of the players who has left the club. He has been part of the Scotland sevens squad set-up recently, however, he remains a Glasgow player with another year remaining on his contract. We apologise for the error.