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Leading man: teenager Gray to captain Scotland

As meteoric rises go, Jonny Gray's will be hard to beat.

Jonny Gray is expected to be an important part of Scotland's World Cup squad in 2015. Picture: SNS
Jonny Gray is expected to be an important part of Scotland's World Cup squad in 2015. Picture: SNS

Not only is the teenager already a full international cap as well as the youngest forward to make his debut since 1951, but he is also believed to be the youngest player to be asked to captain a senior international side after yesterday being named as the leader of the Scotland A team to take on England Saxons next week.

His selection shows that, although Scott Johnson's options when it comes to selecting the national team are restricted by form and injury, the interim head coach is still prepared to gamble where and when he can to bring through players he expects to be a core part of the squad in 20 months, when the Rugby World Cup kicks off in England.

The safe option would have been to hand he leadership reins to such as Allister Hogg, 48 caps and a regular captain at club level, or Henry Pyrgos, who has led the Glasgow side this season, but instead Johnson and Shade Munro, the A team's head coach, jointly decided to look to the future in the expectation that Gray can learn to exert the same level of influence that Al Kellock does at Glasgow or that Martin Johnson used to do with England.

"Jonny is a mature player and the feedback I received from Sean Lineen [Scotland Under-20 head coach] was that he was an excellent and successful captain for Scotland Under-20s last year," Munro said. "He is definitely one of the leaders in this squad and, at Glasgow, he's one of our lineout callers. He is creating a skill set that is suitable to leading a team. The A team is about developing players and captains, so this is an excellent opportunity for him to step up."

What makes Gray's elevation to the top job with the A team such a demonstration of faith by both coaches is not just the player's age and inexperience - he has started only six professional games - but that he has not played for more than two months and was delighted just to be involved this far ahead of schedule knowing his match fitness is a gamble.

Gray has a huge task ahead, particularly since Scotland are gunning for a hat trick of wins over England at this level, having won 13-9 in New­castle last year and 35-0 in Galashiels the year before, but seems determined to enjoy the challenge.

"I was asked during the week; it is a massive honour and I am very privileged," he said. "Captaining the under-20s last year was a great experience and has brought my confidence on. I had a group of players that had played in previous years, such as Mark Bennett, Adam Ashe and Will Bordill, so they were always very helpful to me and I know it'll be the same with this group of players. Also, at Glasgow Big Al [Kellock] has been a huge influence and support to me."

Perhaps surprisingly, one person who had not been let in on the secret was Richie, his older brother, who had been part of the same Scotland training camp earlier this week but then had to head back to Castres where he has to be available for selection this weekend.

"We know England have a physical team with dangerous runners throughout," said Jonny. "They are playing this weekend so we will have a look at them but we will need to focus on ourselves and make sure we are training well. It is a chance to showcase yourself and, for me, it is good that it is in Glasgow as well. It is a massive opportunity for everyone."

Edinburgh forward Cornell Du Preez has escaped further sanction after being accused of striking Munster's Paul O'Connell. A disciplinary panel in Dublin decided the yellow card issued during Edinburgh's Heineken Cup defeat at Thomond Park on Sunday was sufficient punishment for the incident. Ian Evans will miss Wales' entire RBS 6 Nations campaign after the Ospreys lock received a 12-week ban for stamping on Leinster forward Mike McCarthy during a Heineken Cup pool game in Dublin last Friday.

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