Scottish rugby has been rocked by a further disciplinary incident just three weeks from the start of the autumn Test series, with another international player from the Edinburgh pro-team is subject to an internal investigation.
Openside flanker John Hardie, who has been capped 16 times, has been suspended by Edinburgh and Scotland with immediate effect for an unspecified reason.
Edinburgh captain Magnus Bradbury has already been told to stay away from the club after injuring his head in a city centre incident a fortnight ago, leaving him unable to play in last weekend’s game at London Irish.
Hardie started that game and The Scotsman understands that there is no link between the two matters.
An SRU spokesperson would not comment when asked if there was any police involvement in the Hardie case, saying the union would stick to an official statement, which read: “Scottish Rugby and Edinburgh Rugby confirm Scotland international and Edinburgh forward, John Hardie, has been suspended from duty pending an internal investigation.
“As a result the player will not be available for selection for Edinburgh, or the Scotland national team.
“It is normal practice with such matters that we are unable to comment further given the nature of the investigation.”
Edinburgh are currently in Russia for today’s European Challenge Cup match against Krasny Yar and, last week, coach Richard Cockerill said that the Bradbury matter would be dealt with on his return in the next few days.
The news about Hardie, who did not travel to Moscow, came out of the blue in an SRU statement released late yesterday afternoon and means he will not be named on Monday in Gregor Townsend’s squad for next month’s Test series, which starts against Samoa on 11 November.
The New Zealand-born 29-year-old, who has a Scottish grandmother, arrived in Scotland as a free agent after leaving Otago Highlanders in the summer of 2015 and went straight into Vern Cotter’s Rugby World Cup training squad. He made his debut in a warm-up game against Italy in Turin before starring for the Scots in the tournament in England and then signing with Edinburgh.
In better news for Scotland, Stuart Hogg makes his highly-anticipated return to action in today’s “must-win” European Champions Cup clash with Leinster at Scotstoun, going straight into the Glasgow starting XV at full-back.
Hogg hasn’t played since a fractured cheekbone ended his Lions tour early in the summer and he subsequently had a clean-up operation on a long-standing shoulder problem.
“He’s gold to have back in. His energy has been really infectious around the group,” said coach Dave Rennie, whose side cannot afford any more slip ups in Pool 3 after coming away empty-handed from the opener at Exeter Chiefs last weekend.
Hogg’s return is also a boost for Townsend but one player who won’t be available for Scotland’s Tests against Samoa, New Zealand and Australia is hooker Fraser Brown, who hurt his knee at Exeter. He has been ruled out for eight weeks but does not need surgery.
Rennie added: “This game was always a must win, regardless of the Exeter result. In this competition you need to win your home games and we’ve prepared well and are raring to go.
“Leinster were impressive last week [in beating Montpellier]. We are expecting another arm wrestle. It’ll be a brutal encounter.”