THE SCOTLAND A squad was forced into a clutch of last-minute changes yesterday, the most bizarre surrounding the withdrawals of Scott Barrow and Marcus Di Rollo.
Di Rollo has been withdrawn by Toulouse, who have stated that he remains under contractual obligations to the French side even though they are refusing to consider him due to an apparent dispute over his health.
Barrow's withdrawal is more intriguing. He joined Glasgow in 2004, and since qualifying on residency grounds last August he hoped he would be selected for the Churchill Cup squad. However, those hopes have been dashed because he has sold his house in Glasgow.
The 27-year-old from St Helens was offered a new two-year contract by Glasgow, but stated that Sean Lineen, the head coach, had told him that there was little likelihood of regular 1st XV game-time, so he opted instead to leave next month for Leeds Carnegie in the English National Division One. He did not expect that to affect his plans to play for Scotland A.
"It was very amicable with Sean," he said. "If I was 32 or 33 then maybe I'd be happy to be a squad player, playing now and again, but at 27 I just want to play as much as possible.
"Fortunately, I thought, I sold my house to teammate Bernardo Stortoni in May and arranged to move in with Graeme Morrison temporarily while I prepared for the Churchill Cup. I was stunned and really gutted when I got a call to say the IRB had refused to clear me on the grounds that on the date of the first game in June I will only have a rented address in Scotland."
Strangely, had Barrow played for Scotland A at any time during this season he would have been clear to continue no matter where he lived. An SRU spokesman explained: "Until recently Scott owned a home in Glasgow and could claim primary and permanent residence. Not fully aware of the stringent IRB rulings surrounding qualification through residency, he sold his home in preparation for his move, and moved into temporary rented accommodation. Unfortunately, Scott is no longer eligible for Scotland as he no longer has his primary permanent residence in Scotland."
Barrow added: "If I'd known about this ruling I wouldn't have sold Bernie my home until after I'd toured. But it's not to be. My hopes of playing for Scotland are dead and buried now."
Jim Thompson, the Heriot's full-back, only this week signed a contract with Edinburgh; this weekend he will play for Scotland in the IRB World Sevens Series at Murrayfield and then fly off to Canada with the A squad.
Three current Edinburgh players, Matt Dey, Andrew Turnbull and Greig Laidlaw, have also been added to the A squad while Stuart Corsar and Tommy McGee, the former Glasgow and Borders props now playing in England, step up to fill the vacancies left by Craig Smith's withdrawal and Geoff Cross's promotion to the senior squad. One final space will be filled over the weekend.
Scotland A squad (for the 2008 Barclays Churchill Cup in North America in June): Backs: D Blair (Edinburgh), R Dewey (Ulster), M Dey (Edinburgh), C Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), S Jones (Newcastle Falcons), G Laidlaw (Edinburgh), C MacRae (Edinburgh), M McMillan (Wasps), R Reid, M Robertson (both Edinburgh), G Ross (Saracens), J Thompson (Heriot's), A Turnbull (Edinburgh). Forwards: S Corsar (Rotherham), J Dunbar (Leeds Tykes), J Eddie, E Kalman (both Glasgow), A Kelly, A MacDonald (both Edinburgh), T McGee (Leeds), A Miller (Exeter), S Newlands, F Pringle (both Edinburgh), S Swindall, F Thomson, D Turner (all Glasgow), D Young (Leicester), plus A N Other.