THERE are some intriguing selections in Mike Blair’s 37-man Scotland squad for the summer’s games against England A, Romania and Georgia, with no fewer than 17 being uncapped. 

That team-plus-two divides neatly into three categories. Some, such as Glasgow scrum-half Jamie Dobie, have been part of the national squad before and clearly appear ready to take the final step to the highest level of professional rugby. Others - Dobie’s Warriors team-mates Ross Thompson and Cole Forbes, for example, along with Edinburgh’s Luke Crosbie - owe their elevation to some consistently impressive performances for our pro teams. Then there are those who play their rugby further afield - less well known to many of us, but just as capable, Blair believes, of making their mark this month and next.

Perhaps the most fascinating choice of all by the interim head coach is new Warriors signing Sione Tuipulotu. The 24-year-old centre from Australia qualifies for Scotland thanks to having a grandmother from Glasgow, and will join Danny Wilson’s team in time for next season from Japanese club Yamaha Jubilo.

Blair - in charge of the tour party while head coach Gregor Townsend is on tour in South Africa with the British & Irish Lions - wants all of his uncapped choices to take the chance to show what they are capable of at international level, and believes that 24-year-old Tuipulotu in particular could become a key player for Scotland.

“We’ve had our eye on him for quite some time,” he said yesterday after announcing his squad. “He’s a really special player. I think he qualifies to play for five countries. 

“He’s got a grandmother from Glasgow and he’s really keen to play for Scotland - he made that clear with us a while ago. He can play centre and wing, and he’ll be someone who can be really important for us.”

Another important uncapped member of Blair’s group is Sale hooker Ewan Ashman, who has been targeted by England but has also now committed himself to the Scottish cause. “Ewan has been with us for a couple of training camps and he’s very passionate about playing for Scotland,” the coach added. “He’s made us aware of that and we’re looking forward to getting him some games.”

Besides Ashman, several others who play south of the Border are poised to get their chance this month and next, among them Robin ‘Bomber’ Hislop, who played for Scotland Under 20s as far back as 2012. Now 29, the Dumfries-born prop has been increasingly impressive in recent seasons, and will move from Doncaster Knights to Wasps in the close season.

Northampton’s Nick Auterac, 28 also a prop, is someone who has been of interest to the national coaches for some time. “A strong mobile prop, he’s got incredibly large biceps and he’s been on our radar for quite a bit,” Blair added.

Another prop, Javan Sebastian, was on Glasgow’s books in season 2015-16, also turning out for Ayr. Now 26 and back playing for Scarlets in his native Wales, he too is expected to compete keenly for a place in Blair’s front row. 

“He ended up as player of the season for Ayr that year, went back to Scarlets and has done really well there. He’s a really good scrummager and moves well around the pitch for a big guy.”

Besides Dobie, Thompson and Forbes, Warriors back Rufus McLean, flanker Rory Darge and lock/back row Kiran McDonald have also reaped the reward for some lively recent outings. to make their Scotland debuts, and so are Glasgow forwards Kiran McDonald and Rory Darge. Jack Blain and Charlie Shiel are the two Edinburgh backs who could win their first caps, and they are joined by two team-mates from Richard Cockerill’s pack, flanker Luke Crosbie and lock Jamie Hodgson.

Leicester lock Cameron Henderson and Bath back-row Josh Bayliss are also in line to make their debuts. Edinburgh’s Jamie Ritchie has been named as captain.

To an extent the inexperience of the squad is a consequence of the fact that eight Scots have been selected for the Lions, and that other established internationals such as Darcy Graham and Huw Jones are recovering from surgery, while others still simply need a rest at the end of a long, exhausting season. Significant omissions include hookers Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally, lock Jonny Gray, and back-three player Sean Maitland.

Blair knew his squad would have to be experimental in part, but insisted he was looking forward to seeing how well his choices seized their opportunity. “We’re really excited by the amount of young players coming through. The strength in depth is looking good. Look at the squad of 37 and it’s a really talented group. Yes, they’re inexperienced, but being part of this group, this camp and this summer tour, gives us a good opportunity to see where they’re at.” 

The whole squad is set to meet up on Tuesday 15 - later if Glasgow reach the Rainbow Cup final. Around 29 players will stay with the squad after the A game at Welford Road and go on to Romania and Georgia.

Scotland Squad 

For 2021 summer series v England A (27 June), Romania (10 July) and Georgia (17 July)

Forwards: Ewan Ashman (Sale) uncapped, Nick Auterac (Northampton) uncapped, Josh Bayliss (Bath) uncapped, Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) 31 caps, Jamie Bhatti (Bath) 18 caps, Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh) 14 caps, David Cherry (Edinburgh) 5 caps, Alex Craig (Gloucester) 2 caps, Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh) uncapped, Scott Cummings (Glasgow) 20 caps, Rory Darge (Glasgow) uncapped, Matt Fagerson (Glasgow) 13 caps, Cameron Henderson (Leicester) uncapped, Robin Hislop (Doncaster) uncapped, Jamie Hodgson (Edinburgh) uncapped, Oli Kebble (Glasgow) 8 caps, Kiran McDonald (Glasgow) uncapped, Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh, captain) 27 caps, Javan Sebastian (Scarlets) uncapped, Sam Skinner (Exeter) 12 caps, Grant Stewart (Glasgow) 3 caps, George Turner (Glasgow) 17 caps.

Backs: Jack Blain (Edinburgh) uncapped, Jamie Dobie (Glasgow Warriors) uncapped, Cole Forbes (Glasgow Warriors) uncapped, Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) 23 caps, George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 14 caps, Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh) 4 caps, Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) 25 caps, James Lang (Harlequins) 6 caps, Rufus McLean (Glasgow) uncapped, Matt Scott (Leicester Tigers) 39 caps, Charlie Shiel (Edinburgh) uncapped, Scott Steele (Harlequins) 4 caps, Kyle Steyn (Glasgow) 1 cap, Ross Thompson (Glasgow) uncapped, Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow) uncapped.