Grant Gilchrist named Scotland captain for Viagogo Autumn Tests
Edinburgh lock to lead national team as Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga head north
Edinburgh Rugby vice-captain Grant Gilchrist will captain Scotland 33-man squad in next month’s Viagogo Autumn Internationals.
The 24-year-old was given the nod to lead the team over experienced scrum-half Greig Laidlaw with former captain Kelly Brown among the experienced players not selected to face Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga.
Defensively, we’re going to get tested, which is good because we want to show that our defence has improved
Former Alloa and Stirling lock Gilchrist also led Scotland twice during their arduous summer tour, in the 21-19 victory over Argentina in Córdoba and 55-6 defeat by South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
“The most important thing for us, other than showing improvements in key areas, is developing an attack that will give us opportunities to score tries or earn points through teams being forced to infringe,” said Vern Cotter.
“We want to develop, and impose, our style, will, and strategy on our opposition. We want to play well, and enjoy playing in front of our home crowd.
“It’s essential that we show maturity, mental strength and adaptability throughout the series.
“We have a good group, but the most important thing is that we play for each other, we play for the shirt, and we enjoy what we do.”
As expected, much of Cotter’s squad is dominated by Glasgow Warriors players with 17 of Gregor Townsend’s squad named, including uncapped centre Mark Bennett.
The 21-year-old was unlucky to miss out on the summer tour due to his involvement with Team Scotland’s Rugby Sevens team at the Commonwealth Games, but has again been in superb form for the Warriors, scoring two tries in the European Rugby Champions Cup against Bath on Saturday.
Only five of Alan Solomons’ Edinburgh players, including Gilchrist, make it into the squad, but it is the omission of a raft of experienced internationals which stands out ahead of Cotter’s first home match against Argentina on Saturday 8 November at BT Murrayfield.
As well as Saracens flanker Brown, there is no place in the squad for his fellow back-rower John Barclay, despite a solid start to the season with the Scarlets, or Saracens lock Jim Hamilton.
Castres wing Max Evans is another to miss out, as does former Edinburgh centre Nick de Luca, who now plays his rugby in the French second division with Biarritz, and former Glasgow Warriors tighthead prop Moray Low, also now playing in the Aviva Premiership with Exeter Chiefs.
“Argentina will offer us a very stern test, especially scrum time,” Cotter added. “They have good variety and move the ball well from nine, through the middle of the paddock and out the back.
“The All Blacks have just won the Rugby Championship and are the best team in the world, so we’ll have to be on our toes. They have more variety in their kicking game so covering space in the back field will be important.
“Defensively, we’re going to get tested, which is good because we want to show that our defence has improved.
“Tonga will be the final big test psychologically, having come through two big games, to play away from BT Murrayfield, and needing to put in a good performance at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock.”
Scotland squad for the Viagogo autumn internationals (33)
Forwards: Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors), Johnnie Beattie (Castres), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan, Geoff Cross (both London Irish), Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (both Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist CAPTAIN (Edinburgh Rugby), Robert Harley, Jonny Gray (both Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Kieran Low (London Irish), Euan Murray, Gordon Reid (both Glasgow Warriors) Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors).
Backs: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Cusiter (Sale Sharks), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Dougie Fife, Tom Heathcote (both Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Henry Pyrgos, Tommy Seymour (all Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors).
Invited to train with the squad: Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby).
Not considered through injury: David Denton (returning from injury, Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant (returning from injury, Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (knee, London Wasps), Ross Rennie (knee, Bristol Rugby), Matt Scott (shoulder, Edinburgh Rugby), Jon Welsh, Ryan Wilson (both returning from injury, Glasgow Warriors).
Saturday 8 November vs Argentina, BT Murrayfield Stadium
Saturday 15 November vs New Zealand, BT Murrayfield Stadium
Saturday 22 November vs Tonga, Rugby Park, Kilmarnock