Adam Hastings and George Horne enjoyed a rapid graduation from Glasgow Warriors to the Scotland ranks last season. This season, 20-year-old Stafford McDowall looks the most likely to emulate them. The key question is whether he can make sufficient progress to get into Gregor Townsend’s World Cup squad.
McDowall’s recent outings against Munster and Ospreys have certainly caught the eye, and he looks likely to be involved on Friday when the Warriors are at home to Cardiff Blues as the Pro14 programme resumes after the international break. But, understandably, the centre, a former Scotland Under-20 captain, is disinclined to get too carried away just yet. Asked if he saw a place on the plane to Japan as a realistic aim or a dream, he opted for the latter.
“It’s definitely a dream at the moment,” McDowall said earlier this week. “It’s small steps: I’d like to get some consistency in here first, and these international periods are the best time to do that, so I’ll try to take my chance while I can.
“To see how well Adam and George have done and how seamlessly they’ve managed to fit in to the international set-up – it gives you a lot of inspiration.
“Those are two guys I definitely look up to. But, as I say, I just want to take it one step at a time and get some consistency.”
Dave Rennie is always one to keep his own feet on the ground when it comes to speculating about the progress of his younger players, but having stressed the need for caution, the Warriors head coach made it clear how impressed he has been by McDowall’s recent outings.
“I try to squash all the talk about good young kids coming through, so people don’t get too carried away,” he said.
“He’s been in outstanding form in club footy. He’s a year and a half into training with us full-time. I thought he had a really strong performance against Munster, where he played about 65 minutes, and then again against Ospreys.
“He’s certainly a better player now than he was 12 months ago. You’ve got to give credit to him: he works really hard at his game, he’s a smart kid, really diligent – it’s just great that he’s taken his opportunity.
“He’s got a really good skill set. He’s a very good distributor, got a good left foot . He’s a smart footy player, very, very fit, and his work- rate is outstanding. He’s slotted in seamlessly and we’re very, very happy with him.”
Asked if it was absurd to believe that McDowall could at least contend for a World Cup place, Rennie added: “It’s not ridiculous, but look, there’s a lot of good midfielders in there, and we’ve got a number of midfielders ahead of him technically here.
“But, as you’ve seen with us, we’ll pick on form, so he’s certainly made a statement over the last couple of weeks and he probably deserves another opportunity.”
It remains to be seen how many opportunities with Glasgow McDowall needs before he can be thought of as a Scotland possible. But there is no doubt that he is heading in the right direction with impressive speed.