The Townsend Era: Player Debuts – Forwards

First debut – Darryl Marfo v Samoa 2017 

Twelve months prior to taking his bow for Scotland, Darryl Marfo was playing for London Welsh against Richmond in the English Championship. Less than half a dozen starts for Edinburgh in the early stages of the 2017/18 season were enough to propel him to the national side’s number 1 jersey in the absence of Allan Dell, Alasdair Dickinson, Gordon Reid and Rory Sutherland. Any question marks about his selection were quickly dispelled as he solidified the scrum and put in an excellent performance in defence. The 2017 Autumn series would turn out to be Darryl’s only international action, but he shone brightly while he had the stage. 

Most recent debut – Nick Haining v Ireland 2020 

Similar to Darryl Marfo in having travelled a less glamorous route to get to Edinburgh and then the Test stage, Nick was just as assiduous in grabbing his chance when it presented itself. Scotland were running thin at number 8 when the powerful ball carrier was given the call and he stood up to one of the most abrasive packs in world rugby during his first appearance at the beginning of the 2020 Six Nations. Back row is a position with plenty of options for Gregor Townsend but it would be a surprise if Nick’s Scotland career didn’t last more than a single series. 

Three key debuts 

Jamie Bhatti v Samoa 2017 

The second of the loosehead debutants against Samoa for Gregor Townsend’s first home game in charge, Jamie was another to step on to the international scene with little discernible drop off from his club performances. The former slaughterman’s rise was equally as meteoric as Darryl Marfo, the man he replaced in the 59th minute. Twelve months and two weeks prior to his Test debut, Jamie played for Melrose against Boroughmuir in the BT Premiership, only making his first appearance for Glasgow Warriors the following week. He had turned pro at the start of the 2017/18 season before becoming a Scotland regular for the next couple of years. 

Jamie Ritchie v Canada 2018 

One of four debutants in the game against Canada, Jamie found himself trying to break into arguably the most competitive area of the Scotland team. Never one to shirk a challenge the young flanker has made himself close to indispensable to the national side, featuring in 18 of their last 24 fixtures as either an openside or blindside. That ability to adapt his game to make sure nothing is lacking in the back row blend has been crucial – as has his refusal to take a backwards step, no matter the circumstances. A former skipper at under 20s level it would be no surprise to see him go on to captain the full Test team at some stage. 

Scott Cummings v France 2019 

Scott’s earliest opportunities to make his mark for Glasgow came as a result of four second rows being on international duty during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Fast forward nearly four years and, still only 22 years of age, the big lock timed his charge perfectly to come into contention to feature for Scotland in the 2019 edition of the tournament. Playing all four warm-up matches he forced his way into the squad that travelled to Japan. In fact, Scott is the only ever present across Scotland’s last dozen Tests, starting seven and coming off the subs’ bench in the other five. With a number of leading second row candidates moving into their late 20s and early 30s, Scott is leading the vanguard of the next generation of quality young locks who have progressed through the Scotland age grade setup.

Other debuts

George Turner v Samoa 2017
Luke Hamilton v New Zealand 2017
Murray McCallum v Wales 2018
Lewis Carmichael v Canada 2018
Matt Fagerson v USA 2018
Sam Skinner v Fiji 2018
Gary Graham v Italy 2019
Jake Kerr v Italy 2019
D’arcy Rae v Ireland 2019
Blade Thomson v France 2019
Grant Stewart v France 2019

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