WITH seasoned campaigners such as Grant Gilchrist and Jonny Gray being joined by six uncapped players, the Scotland squad to tour South America this summer is the archetypal blend of youth and experience.

The omission of Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Chris Harris means that the 40-strong squad will be without three of the nation’s eight British & Irish Lions from last summer, but the other five - Zander Fagerson, Duhan van der Merwe, Ali Price, Rory Sutherland and Hamish Watson - are all included. That quintet, along with Gilchrist, Gray and other senior figures, will be there to ensure stability and solidity. The task of the uncapped half-dozen, alongside others with minimal experience at Test level, will be to rise to the occasion; to prove that they are able to withstand the rigours of Test rugby in an unfamiliar environment very far from home. 

Edinburgh provide three of the uncapped contingent in lock Glen Young, back-row forward Ben Muncaster and centre Matt Currie, while Glasgow have two - prop Murphy Walker and full-back Ollie Smith. The sixth is London Irish winger Kyle Rowe, who was called into the wider squad for the Six Nations at the start of the year but did not feature in a matchday group. In addition to those players, there are several whose international experience has so far been restricted to one or two outings, including Ewan Ashman, Andy Christie, Luke Crosbie and Rufus McLean. 

A big group of players return to the fold after missing most or all of the Championship through either injury or non-selection. Huw Jones is back, for instance, and seems sure to have a key role to play against the Pumas ahead of his return to Glasgow next season. Several Warriors are also poised to make their comebacks, including Gray, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson and Rory Darge 

The four games - an ‘A’ fixture against Chile in Santiago followed by three Tests against Argentina in Jujuy, Salta and Santiago del Estero - represent Scotland’s first tour since 2018. Townsend’s team beat Canada, lost to the USA, then defeated the Pumas four years ago, but that was pre-pandemic.

This time round, for all that the head coach hopes that Covid conditions have eased in both Chile and Argentina, there may well be less freedom of movement for the playing group. Given the frustrations that such restrictions can cause, as was evidenced by the breach of team protocol by six players including Russell and Hogg towards the end of this year’s Six Nations Championship, Townsend is keen to ensure there is a very clear understanding throughout the squad of the ground rules. 

“It won’t just be me,” the coach said yesterday when asked if he planned to lay down the law to the players. “It will be co-owned with the playing group.

“It’s about how we go there as ambassadors for our country to Argentina and Chile, it’s how we want to be seen as a team on this tour, and how hard we’re going to work to get success. These are things that get discussed and agreed whenever you go into a campaign. 

“Sometimes you get reminders that you have to do that a bit earlier or make sure that there is clarity. But it’s not going to be a head-coach-led or imposed programme. It’s going to be with the whole playing group and particularly the leadership group.

“I know that Covid is much lower now, but we’ll have to assess that situation. We believe everything is going to be OK in Chile and Argentina. There needs to be common sense, but I’m hoping we can enjoy seeing a foreign country. 

“If that means going out for coffees and seeing things in Santiago and Argentina but we have our nights together in the hotel, that’s what it will be. But if it means we can go out as well, we’ll decide that as a group.” 

A number of senior figures have been left out along with Hogg, Russell and Harris, and they fall into three groups: not fit, rested or not considered. Edinburgh forwards Stuart McInally and Jamie Ritchie, for instance, are still making their way back from injury, while it was decided that their team-mate WP Nel, now 36, should have some time off to help ensure his readiness to play in next year’s World Cup. 

Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown has been injured and is another who it is thought will benefit from a summer off. Brown’s second-row colleague Richie Gray, however, has simply not been picked, although he has said in the past that he still wanted to be considered for selection.

Bath forward Josh Bayliss is another who is still making his way back from an ankle injury. And Edinburgh scrum-half Ben Vellacott is still sidelined with a hip injury.