Former Scotland lock Andy Reid was famously discovered because he was sporting a Hearts scarf and Gregor Townsend was stuck in front of a telephone in London ostensibly to talk about Scotland’s new programme of scouts dotted around the rugby world who are spotting Scottish qualified talent in far off places with a view to seeing the best of them end up in a blue shirt.
There are several scouts in England, including Rory Lawson and Alan Tait, and there is even one in Japan although it is not obvious just how many Scots there are for Jun Kagawa to identify over there. This all emerged at the summer AGM so instead of scouts the Scotland coach fielded questions about his wounded skipper.
“Really bad timing for Greig (Laidlaw),” said Townsend. “On Monday we weren’t aware of the extent of his injury. It was in the last play of the game. I was watching the game and I didn’t realise he was injured. Then we were hopeful he wasn’t going to miss the November tests but unfortunately, as you know… it was bad timing.
“He recovered pretty well from his last ankle injury to make the Lions’ tour so hopefully he’ll make the same recovery. It will be close but if his recovery goes well he should be available for the start of the (Six Nations) tournament.”
The news was better regarding Laidlaw’s potential replacement as Scotland skipper. John Barclay saw a specialist on Monday and got the go-ahead to undertake the normal return-to-play protocol which should allow him to get a game or two under his belt before the November Test window.
When the conversation finally got around to the Scottish Qualified Programme that has been enhanced and formalised by Murrayfield, Townsend pointed out that Scotland have always cast the net pretty wide and the extension of the residency rule from three to five years from 1 January 2018 made the programme all the more important.
“It certainly helps, “ he argued. “Throughout Scottish rugby history, but even more so in the professional game as more countries are getting organised, it is very important for us as a nation but also for the players. They get an opportunity to play for the country that they are qualified to play for and I am sure that their families are very proud that they play for Scotland.
“So this newly-enhanced programme really helps us to identify more players to potentially play for Scotland.”