Stuart Hogg still needs to “tick some boxes” over his fitness but looks to be on course for a surprise early comeback for Scotland against Fiji on Saturday.
The star full-back was expected to miss the entire November Test series after ankle surgery in September but was one of six players added to the Scotland squad yesterday in the wake of the weekend’s 21-10 loss in Wales.
Hogg was with the squad at the Principality Stadium, acting as “water carrier”, and Scotland forwards coach Danny Wilson seemed hopeful yesterday that the 26-year-old could be involved against the Pacific islanders at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.
“There’s still a few boxes to tick, some decisions to make on that. But he’s made really good progress. We’ll see how he goes later this week,” said Wilson.
The scheduled team announcement has been put back from Wednesday to Thursday, with the obvious conclusion that it is to give Hogg time to prove his fitness after what had been predicted to be a 12-week lay-off.
New pack chief Wilson added: “You’d probably have to ask [head coach] Gregor [Townsend] that if I’m honest.
“I’m not sure exactly what the final situation is with Stuart. He’s made a bit of progress, but there’s a bit more to make, just to make sure he’s ready to go and I think the next few days will determine that.”
Hogg’s Glasgow Warriors team-mates Adam Ashe, Scott Cummings and Nick Grigg were also called up, along with Sale’s Josh Strauss and Worcester’s Duncan Weir.
Wilson played down any concerns that an immediate comeback for Hogg would be a risk.
“I don’t think there’s a massive concern about that. He’s made really good progress in his rehab, he’s worked extremely hard in a short space of time and he’s shown me how important it is for him to play for Scotland,” said the former Cardiff boss, who is looking forward to his first home game after replacing Dan McFarland.
“Stuart’s desperate to play rugby full stop. Desperate to get back out on the pitch and he’s made real good progress, done everything that’s been asked of him.
“It would be great to have him back out there, but we have to make sure we do our due diligence and he does his and we put him out there are the right time when he’s fully fit and hopefully the next few days will dictate when that will be.”
Wilson admitted if the decision was left to Hogg, it would be a swift and simple answer.
“I think he wanted to play Friday night for Glasgow and he wants to play at every opportunity, that’s what I’m learning from him,” said the Englishman. “He’s desperate to play at every opportunity for both his club and country and it would be great to get him out there.
“At this stage we’re definitely hopeful but we have to wait and see how the next three days go. It’s quite an important week ahead. He’s not [taking contact] in this environment, no. He’s just come back today.”
The additions to the squad came along with the return to availability of Exiles such as scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, stand-off Finn Russell and wing Sean Maitland.
Flanker Blade Thomson suffered what looked a serious concussion playing for Scarlets at Edinburgh on Friday and Harlequins centre picked up a rib injury. Edinburgh centre Matt Scott and Leicester back-rower David Denton are both with their clubs undergoing head injury protocols.
On Thomson, who was one of the new call-ups for Townsend’s autumn series squad, Wilson said: “I think I probably need to get the big picture on where he currently is. It obviously looked like quite a nasty injury on Friday night, so we’ll have to wait and see.
“Blade came in for the first couple of weeks and, from his performances with the Scarlets and how he’s trained and what he’s showed in the camp, he’s an exciting player that we’re desperate to get involved, but we might have to wait a little bit longer for that.”