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Chance for A team to impress the selectors

AFTER unveiling a side stacked with newcomers, Shade Munro, the Scotland A coach, has challenged his team to match the feat produced by the same side a year ago when their 35-0 win over England catapulted 10 of the side to win full international honours within a year.

This year's group against the same opponents is an eclectic mix of raw youth and experience, the latter represented by Nikki Walker, the wing who broke a leg in the final warm-up match before the Rugby World Cup, making his long-awaited international comeback; the former by promising youngsters such as Sean Kennedy, the scrum-half who has been a surprise call-up to the national training squad, and Duncan Taylor, the 23-year-old Saracens wing who has thrown his lot in with his parents' country.

"Last year's performance was fantastic, almost unreal, and 10 guys have been capped since then," Munro observed. "There's a few players from that game who are still here and getting a second shot at it. It is important, that is exactly what these games are for. If they perform well against England A in front of the selectors and on TV, then they have got every chance of moving up.

"The motivation is that this is international rugby. There are a lot of young players coming in and this is their first experience of playing at international level. There are also guys who have played for the A team before and guys who have played for the national team. It is a chance for them to show what they can do. The selectors will be watching, if they perform well, then they have every opportunity of featuring in the Six Nations."

In reality, he does not have many options in most positions, but for rookie captain Ryan Wilson, the Glasgow No.8 earning his first chance at leading a professional team, the quality of players on display demonstrates the strength in depth of the Scottish game.

"I am really happy with the strength of this squad," he said. "You look at the number who went to the international training camp; a few of us have come from that and into this and you can see that the strength in depth is getting better and better every year. That helps Scottish rugby throughout.

"We have players who have come in only recently, we have good strength in depth and will look to take the game to England."

Overall, the side has a reasonable balance, with Jon Welsh, the Glasgow prop, continuing his return from injury by slotting in at tighthead, while Wilson is joined by Stuart McInally and Richie Vernon in a back row packed with pace.

Behind, there will be some interest in seeing Taylor, but more in seeing how Kennedy and Tom Heathcote, who made his full Scotland debut against Tonga, fit together as a new half-back partnership.

For the longer-term future, there is plenty to look forward to among the bench players where the likes of Jamie Stevenson, the London Scottish scrum-half, and Grant Sheills, the Newcastle prop, are expecting to make their international bows.

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