GREGOR Townsend hopes Stuart Hogg will be able and willing to return as Scotland captain for the Autumn Tests, despite his omission from the 40-man squad for the summer tour to Chile and Argentina.

Finn Russell, who along with Hogg and four others broke protocol by leaving the team hotel in the build-up to the Six Nations match against Ireland, has also been left out of the tour party. However, that breach of discipline had no bearing on selection, according to the national coach, who said that the omission of those two and a third 2021 British & Irish Lion in Chris Harris was because of niggling injuries and the quantity of rugby they had played.

Townsend has picked a safe pair of hands in Grant Gilchrist to skipper the side in South America, but, asked if Hogg was still his longer-term captain, the coach sounded optimistic. “I hope he will be and I’ve said that to Stuart as well,” he said. “But November is a few months away. 

“He has got a big opportunity now to rest up. He got a couple of injury niggles during the Six Nations, but kept playing for us and for Exeter. Given the couple of years that he’s had, we think the time he has had off will do him the world of good. 

“He is in agreement with that. He wanted to tour, but once he digested the news he is going to turn this into a positive.

“Conversations are always ongoing,” the coach continued when asked what needed to happen for Hogg to resume the captaincy. “We learned a lot on and off the field during the Six Nations, and that week ended up disappointing for us that it [the disciplinary incident] was in the public domain.  

“I would hope that we’ve all learned from  that, and Stuart has been an excellent captain for us. He’s been consistently one of our best players, not just as captain but before that, and he had a really good Six Nations. 

“So there is time for him to reflect and things for him to work on as captain, just as there is for him as a player. My hope and my belief is that we’ll get to that stage in November where he wants to be captain and he’s in a position where he can be a strong captain for Scotland. That’s the goal. 

“Now, if that doesn’t happen it is either because he doesn’t want to do it, or because we’ve seen someone else come through, or their circumstances – but I can’t predict that.” 

The four other players involved with Hogg and Russell in the breach of discipline - Ali Price, Darcy Graham, Sam Johnson and Sione Tuipulotu - have all been selected. Of Scotland’s eight Lions from last summer, Hogg, Russell and Harris are the only three to be left out.

“We looked closely at what the three Lions guys had done this season, because they are the players who had played the most rugby the year before, playing right through till August,” Townsend added. “Stuart Hogg, in particular, has played more minutes than anybody. If you put that on the back of what they did the season before, and looking at where they are physically with injury niggles, that then became the decision about them not touring.”