Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend has named seven uncapped players in a 39-man Scotland squad for the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
Injuries to Fraser Brown and George Turner have opened the door for a trio of uncapped hookers, with David Cherry (Edinburgh) Jake Kerr (Leicester Tigers) and Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors) rewarded for breakthrough seasons at their club sides.
They are joined by back-row Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons) and tighthead prop D’Arcy Rae (Glasgow Warriors), with centres Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) and Chris Dean (Edinburgh) the only uncapped backs.
Of the group, former Scotland U20 caps Cherry, Kerr and Dean are the only players to have no previous involvement with the senior national side, with the others selected in extended or training squads in recent seasons.
Johnson missed out on the recent Autumn Tests through injury and Graham was an unused addition mid campaign, while Rae and Stewart have also come close to caps in previous camps as unused squad members on the 2017 and 2018 summer tours respectively.
Newcastle Falcons back-row John Hardie makes his return to a Scotland squad for the first time since the 2018 Six Nations, while the selection of squad regulars Jonny Gray and Tommy Seymour puts them – selection permitting – on track to reach a half century of Scotland caps during the championship, currently just three and four caps from the milestone.
Scotland finished last year’s championship in third place with three wins for the second time since five nations became six, with Head Coach Gregor Townsend keen to see continued improvements from his side.
He said: “There’s certainly been a lot of improvement from this group of players in recent seasons and I believe there’s much more to come. They’ve a genuine desire to get better and reach their potential in what is a huge year for our sport.
“In the past 18 months we’ve played 18 Test matches and have introduced 18 new players to Test-level rugby. Once again, our squad features players aiming to take that step, which is a testimony to their performances this season and the growing strength in depth of Scottish rugby.
“We are very proud of what a number of our players have achieved since the Autumn Tests, particularly with Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors both aiming to make the last eight of the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time and both sitting in strong positions in their respective Guinness PRO14 conferences.
“We’ve also seen some excellent performances from players representing clubs in France and England, which is a credit to their commitment and work ethic.
“It is a privilege for our players to be involved in the Guinness Six Nations, which is such a prestigious tournament and will be highly competitive once again.
“We look forward to taking on the challenge of Italy and working hard as a squad over the next two weeks to deliver a winning performance.”
Scotland will open the campaign against Italy at BT Murrayfield on Saturday 2 February, in the first of three home Tests in this year’s competition, all of which are expected to be played before capacity crowds at the nation's largest stadium.
Scotland Six Nations Squad
Via: Scottish Rugby