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Scotland: Five to watch this summer

Scotland: Five to watch this summer

Ben Healy Scotland

Scotland will kick off their Summer Nations Series against Italy on Saturday at Scottish Gas Murrayfield under a new skipper in Rory Darge.

And with some big decisions for Gregor Townsend ahead of the World Cup – where Scotland face the daunting prospect of taking on Grand Slam champions Ireland and reigning champions South Africa in their group – every match will be crucial.

As well as the clash with the Azzurri, Scotland will also take on France twice, as well as Georgia, and there are plenty of players with a huge opportunity to lay down a marker – for a variety of reasons.

Here are five of the most intriguing:

Rory Darge

Captain this weekend, and still only 23, Rory Darge looks like one of Scotland’s foundational pieces for the next decade. A breakthrough 2022 has been followed up by an injury-hit season, but now fully fit once again, he has the chance to push for a starting role in France.

This weekend, he will start alongside Luke Crosbie, one of his main competitors for the starting No.7 jersey, while Hamish Watson has been the main man at openside for a while now. If Darge can hit the ground running as a starter, then he could make it very difficult for Townsend to look elsewhere when it comes to that opening World Cup clash with South Africa.

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Ollie Smith

Stuart Hogg’s retirement has opened the door at full-back for Scotland, with Ollie Smith getting the first crack at the No.15 jersey. While Blair Kinghorn would appear to be the leading candidate for the starting job, he is also a valuable option off the bench with his ability to cover multiple positions at Test level.

Smith looked comfortable in his home debut against Australia last November, showing his quick feet for a fine first Test try, and has three Test starts under his belt. The last of those also came against Italy, during the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, and another good display against the Azzurri will surely help his case for a World Cup squad place at a minimum.

Ben Healy

While Finn Russell and Blair Kinghorn look to be the top two options at fly-half, the fact that the latter may be the first-choice full-back opens up the door for another No.10.

Adam Hastings has proved himself at Test level, but has been injured at unfortunate times. Ben Healy’s international career is just 13 minutes old, but he starts against Italy this weekend and will have a chance to show that he is a viable option at the World Cup.

Cameron Henderson

The only debutant named in the 23 to take on Italy, Cameron Henderson has impressed in the second row for Leicester Tigers and will now look to carry that form onto the international stage.

With Jonny Gray injured, there is a spot up for grabs in Scotland’s lock stocks, although he may be up against it to displace one of Sam Skinner or Scott Cummings, who look to be his main competition. Long term though, the 23-year-old could become a mainstay of the Scottish engine room, and he would not be the first player to use the summer before a World Cup as a springboard to a starting role earlier than expected.

Murphy Walker

Tighthead props usually take a while to mature, but with WP Nel now 37, there is a spot which will soon be open in the matchday 23. Murphy Walker featured twice in the 2022 Autumn Nations Series and will start against Italy this weekend.

A strong showing for the 23-year-old will be crucial in his battle with Javan Sebastian for a World Cup spot, with the potential to force his way even higher up the pecking order with some impressive showings.

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