ON Friday night we will find out by webinar just exactly what the Scottish Rugby Union is planning for the route map for the return of club rugby in this country, the restart already delayed to October 15 and possibly now October 31.

At this point I want to send a warning. I have spoken to several people involved in grassroots rugby and one friend who is heavily involved with his local club says he really doubts if the club will survive. A combination of players drifting away – not going to other sports but just quitting altogether – and administrators trying and failing to juggle bank accounts and debts has brought his club to the brink, and only the determined efforts of a few individuals are keeping things going.

I suspect that is the picture at a lot of clubs and any further long delay in getting clubs back to training and playing will be disastrous. From the grassroots upward, Scottish rugby faces immense challenges, and it is a time for pulling together to ensure survival for all. The future could be prosperous if we are able to get everyone back playing.

The time has come for the Scottish Government to put its money where its mouth is and support the grassroots not just in rugby but all sports. One-off grants must be made at all levels of sport in Scotland if our sporting infrastructure is to survive – and give these grants direct to clubs, not to governing bodies who will just find ways to snaffle the money. And don’t say the money isn’t there, because it is – lying in the bank account of the National Lottery.

So, I have said my piece for the grassroots but it is inevitable that our attention will soon turn to the Autumn Tests with head coach Gregor Townsend expected to name his training squad in the next few days.

The problem facing Townsend is that while there is strength in depth in the Scotland squad, there are a number of players who would always be first choice in their position if fit and available. Stuart Hogg, obviously, at full-back, Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie as flankers, Finn Russell at stand-off, Jonny Gray at lock, Rory Sutherland at loosehead prop and Sean Maitland on the wing. I would pick those seven in my first XV every time, and my major dilemma would be whether to have Fraser Brown or Stuart McInally at hooker – both can be equally brilliant on their day.

So, if all those are available then half the team pick themselves. It’s in the players around them that Townsend has that best of problems for any coach – he has real choices to make. Zander Fagerson or WP Nel at tighthead, and any one of four or five at lock but wouldn’t it be great to see Richie Gray back alongside his brother in the engine room? Matt Fagerson would be my choice at No.8, but Nick Haining and Magnus Bradbury will provide stiff competition for that key position. Ali Price and George Horne will fight out the scrum-half position, but watch out for Sam Hidalgo-Clyne making a comeback.

The numerous men in contention for the partnership at centre are not automatic picks which is a good thing in a way. Their versatility should guarantee Blair Kinghorn of Edinburgh and Huw Jones of Glasgow their places in the squad and maybe even starting roles, especially in the first match against Georgia when Hogg will not be available.

Townsend must continue with Darcy Graham, who sets a game alight any time he gets the ball. We will almost certainly see the international debuts of Glasgow Warriors’ South Africa-born prop Oli Kebble who qualified to play for Scotland on residency grounds in August and his fellow South Africans Jaco van der Walt, the Edinburgh stand-off who qualifies for Scotland in November, and big Edinburgh winger Duhan van der Merwe who is already qualified.

I GENUINELY believe that Scotland now has the core of a very fine team and the strength in depth to make it work, and hopefully everything will come right in our final 2020 Six Nations match against Wales on October 31. Welsh coach Wayne Pivac has named a squad with seven uncapped players, but expect the old guard to turn out in Scarlet at the Parc Y Scarlets in Llanelli to where the match has been transferred.

Far more important will be the way Townsend sets out his tactical stock. Does he continue with the high-speed, high-risk strategy that makes Scotland so exciting to watch when things go their way, or does he go for a more safety-first approach? I wouldn’t have his job for all the tea in China and India put together, but for all our sakes, let’s hope Townsend gets it right this Autumn so we will have something to look forward to next year.