Hogg out but Scots squad has familiar Borders look

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.

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.

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.