Edinburgh centre Matt Scott has been tipped for a Scotland recall after working hard to iron out flaws in his game which have led to over two-and-a-half years in the international wilderness.
The 29-year-old centre’s 39th and last cap to date came in the summer Test win against Australia in Sydney back in the summer of 2017.
He has since returned for a second spell at Edinburgh following a stint with Gloucester but has been frustrated by a long-term concussion problem and other niggles, the most recent of which he returned from last Saturday with a game-changing cameo off the bench in Edinburgh’s 29-19 1872 Cup-levelling win at home to Glasgow.
He gets a start tonight against Southern Kings at BT Murrayfield and Edinburgh defence coach Calum MacRae, pictured, was full of praise for the way Scott has applied himself since returning to Scotland.
“When Matt first came back to the club the first thing he was looking to do was to improve as a player. Obviously defence is an area that I take charge of and I’ve been really, really impressed by him this season around the principles that we hammer into the guys in the backline around what we look for,” said the assistant coach.
“I think there’s been a marked change in his behaviours [on the field] and the consistency of the work that he does there has improved.
“Hopefully the national selectors see that and will pay credit to his club form in that respect. He obviously did very well with ball in hand off the bench last week, but the setpiece efforts defensively that he had to deal with against a dangerous Glasgow attack I thought he did exceptionally well.”
Scott has spoken recently of how he feels shedding 10kg of weight has sharpened up his game and MacRae added: “He’s one of these guys who’s a really strong responder to some elements of the training that you do with him.
“He’ll put on lean muscle mass twice as quickly as some guys, and during that period that he was off with his head injury there were certain types of training that he could do, others that he couldn’t. On his phased return he was looking to maintain his fitness and he is a quick responder.
“If more Scottish lads had his genetics in relation to training response we’d be in a really good place – I think he is a really functional playing weight at the moment. His consistency and repeated efforts have shown that, especially that for the 20-25 minutes last week.”
Scott partners James Johnstone in a new-look midfield pairing against the Conference basement boys this evening, with Fijian international Eroni Sau returning on the wing. John Barclay returns in the back-row after recovering from a head knock that has kept him out for a few weeks. Following the euphoria of last weekend’s win in front of a record crowd at the national stadium, a Saturday night visit from the Kings is a bit more of a low-key start to the new year compared with how the old one ended.
MacRae insists there will be no complacency from second-placed Edinburgh tonight, though, against a side who inflicted an ultimately damaging 25-21 defeat over them in Port Elizabeth last season.
“If I’m really honest, the thing that’s really stuck in my stomach this week is how I felt, and how the squad felt, over there last year when we lost that fixture,” said the former Scotland Sevens boss.
“I keep reiterating that these games are as important as any others in the Pro14 season – you get the same points for them. It’s one we knew we let slip last year.”
Head coach Richard Cockerill added: “We were obviously delighted with the derby win last weekend, but as we’ve spoken about all week in training, it means nothing if we don’t turn up and perform against Southern Kings.
“We are proud of our unbeaten home record at BT Murrayfield and we want to keep it that way. We are playing with confidence and determination, and hopefully that continues as we face a really tough and much-improved Kings side.”