Mike Blair confident Scotland can hang on to likes of Josh Bayliss, Cameron Henderson and Sione Tuipulotu
Mike Blair is confident the dual-qualified players called into the national squad for the summer tour that never was will remain committed to Scotland.
The SRU bowed to the inevitable on Friday when it was announced that next week’s Test match against Georgia had been cancelled due to Covid.
The Georgians, who were also supposed to play the Springboks in South Africa last night, have reported six positive cases.
It’s a blow for Blair who was appointed interim head coach while Gregor Townsend was on Lions duty in South Africa. But the former scrum-half does not believe his time in charge has been wasted.
As well as gaining experience of leading the squad in extremely trying circumstances, Blair has been impressed by the quality shown in training by what was a largely experimental selection.
He is also in no doubt about the commitment to Scotland of those such as Bath back-row Josh Bayliss, Sale hooker Ewan Ashman, Leicester lock Cameron Henderson and new Glasgow centre/wing Sione Tuipulotu.
All four qualify for more than one country but Blair dismissed the notion that any of them could be lured away.
“We don’t believe that will be an issue at all,” said the coach
“Those guys who are dual qualified or have had contact from other countries, we’ve found them so committed to Scotland through the training, through the camps
“We’ve loved having them in and the feedback we’ve had over the weeks is that they’ve loved being in. We’re confident about that situation.”
With eight Scotland men unavailable due to Lions duty and several other established internationals rested, the 37-man squad picked for the summer programme contained 18 uncapped players and some left-field selections. With no international rugby scheduled until the autumn Tests, Blair conceded that some may now have missed their chance of playing for Scotland.
“That’s probably the reality, looking at that big picture,” he said. “But I’ve been massively impressed with the professionalism and attitude of the guys who have come in.
“There might be a few where you were thinking it might create a bit of strength in depth where you’re now thinking, ‘hold on, they might actually challenge for a place.’
“It’s up to them now. They’re unfortunate that the games haven’t gone ahead and everyone is really disappointed and frustrated by that.
“But just because you’ve been on a Lions tour doesn’t necessarily mean you come back and walk straight back into the Scotland team. I didn’t! It’s very possible for that not to happen.
“Yes we’ll get some quality back with the Lions guys in the autumn, but that doesn’t mean by any means that these guys will miss out.”
He may not have taken charge of a match, but Blair feels he has learned a huge amount during his stint in charge and said he would now take a couple of weeks to mull over his coaching ambitions.
For now, he will return to his role as assistant coach.
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