This time next year the rugby world will be looking forward to the semi-final stages of the 2023 RWC. Past history (1991 aside) does rather suggest Scotland’s fate will have been sealed by that point and it will certainly require a minimum of at least two results that could be considered upsets for the dark blues to match their best ever World Cup performance in reaching the last four.
With that in mind big performances are required in the fixtures coming up over the next ten months to build the mindset that is required to challenge the likes of South Africa and Ireland (and potentially France or New Zealand) next year. The four Tests scheduled for the Autumn Nations Series will form a vital part of building that momentum.
There are 11 players in and 11 out compared to the initial selection of 40 named for the Summer Tour of South America. There is some serious firepower among the returning players (although no Finn Russell) which will strengthen a group that really should have held on for an away series win against Argentina.
Johnny Matthews was a late callup to the squad in the summer but has not been retained for this autumn’s action.
- 2 uncapped players have been selected in the squad of 40, plus Jack Dempsey who has yet to make his Scotland debut but has 14 caps for Australia [Summer Tour squad – 6 out of 40].
- Forwards – Murphy Walker.
- Backs – Stafford McDowall.
- Since Gregor Townsend became head coach following the 2017 Six Nations there have been 54 Test debuts for the men’s national side.
- 11 players in the squad made their Scotland debuts prior to Toony taking over – 7 under Vern Cotter, 2 under Scott Johnson and 2 under Andy Robinson.
- Another 13 men have been picked who have won fewer than 10 caps each [Summer Tour squad – 14].
- There are 7 players in the squad with more than 50 Scotland caps to their name – Stuart Hogg (93), Jonny Gray (69), Richie Gray (67), Grant Gilchrist (55), Ali Price (54), Hamish Watson (51) and Zander Fagerson (50) [Summer Tour squad – 3, plus Hamish and Zander reached that milestone during the tour].
- WP Nel (48) could also bring up his half-century during the Autumn Series.
Player numbers and game time
- Jack Dempsey is the only completely brand new face in a full Scotland squad. He bring the total included in Scotland men’s Test squads during the Townsend era to 132.
- The coaches have picked 16 Glasgow Warriors, 14 players from Edinburgh, and 10 Exiles [Summer Tour squad – 14 Edinburgh, 14 Glasgow, 12 Exiles].
- Ali Price is the only man who has played some part in each of the previous series during Gregor Townsend’s time in charge (Price was unavailable for selection in the 2021 Summer Tour squad but, ultimately, no games went ahead).
- Glen Young’s appearance as a replacement in the Third Test against Argentina made him the 103rd different player to have seen game time in Scotland’s Tests since Summer 2017.
- No one has featured in all 57 Tests since the start of the Townsend era. Ali Price (49 games) has made the most appearances – 8 more than any other player.
- The average age of the squad is 27.5 [Summer Tour squad – 26.2].
- The backs’ average age is 26.5 while for the forwards it is 28.3 [Summer Tour squad – 25.7 for backs and 26.6 for forwards].
- There are 10 players over the age of 30 with skipper WP Nel the elder statesman at 36.5. The other veterans are Richie Gray (33.2), Grant Gilchrist (32.2), Nick Haining (32.2), Chris Harris (31.8), David Cherry (31.8), Hamish Watson (31.0), Stuart Hogg (30.3), Rory Sutherland (30.2) and George Turner (30.0) [Summer Tour squad – 3 over 30s].
- There are 16 players who will be 30 or younger when the 2027 Rugby World Cup kicks off, including 3 players born in the 2000s – Ewan Ashman, Rufus McLean and Ollie Smith. Smith is the youngest in the squad (22.2).
- The squad have combined for 134 Test tries.
- 41 have been scored by forwards, 93 by the backs.
- Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe are the top try scorers in the Townsend era with 12 tries each.
- George Turner (7) has the most tries among the forwards during this period.
Here is OTOTM’s best guess (with the emphasis on the guess!) at how the Depth Chart for the current squad stands ahead of this autumn’s action kicking off:
Given none of the Exiles’ players will be involved against Australia, here is the Depth Chart for that game alone: