Hogg out but Scots squad has familiar Borders look

Greig Laidlaw (picture by Neil Hanna Photography)Greig Laidlaw (picture by Neil Hanna Photography)
Greig Laidlaw (picture by Neil Hanna Photography)
A handful of Borders players are named once again in a 40-man Scotland rugby squad for the 2018 Autumn Tests.

Lions and ex-Hawick full-back Stuart Hogg is one very notable absentee, owing to injury – but head coach Gregor Townsend has kept faith with several other familiar names, with Borders connections, who’ve recently made an intenrational impression.

Among the forwards is ex-Kelso and Melrose stalwart Ross Ford, the nation’s most capped player.

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A couple with Selkirk ties, Alex Dunbar and Lee Jones, join the backs, together with well-known son of Jedburgh, Greig Laidlaw.

Ex-Hawick player Darcy Graham has been invited to train with the squad, while Melrose-linked Lewis Carmichael has, like Hogg, been shelved by injury.

The national team faces Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, November 3 to contest the Doddie Weir Cup, as both teams honour the former Melrose, Scotland and British & Irish Lions player diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

Scotland return to BT Murrayfield for three home Tests on the consecutive Saturdays which follow – Fiji (November 10), South Africa (November 17) and Argentina (November 24), all of which are on target for capacity crowds.

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Gregor Townsend, who made his name at club level with Gala, said: “We now begin the last 12 months of our preparations for Rugby World Cup 2019 with four Test matches in four weeks, a similar challenge to the one we’ll face in Japan.

“It’s going to be an exciting year for the squad but our primary focus is fixed on performing well against Wales – familiar opponents who have already recorded a win against us this year.”

A 40-man group highlighted the quality of players available and the competition for places, he added, while allowing more players into the training environment and hopefully giving a few more of them a taste of Test match rugby.