Why Scotland omissions don’t spell end of the world for rising stars
As with any international squad, there are always going to be omissions. And yes, Scotland has some promising young stars that could possibly have earned an opportunity during this campaign. But there is a chance they could benefit from not being included. By Erin McRitchie
On Tuesday morning, Scottish Rugby fans waited with baited breath for the announcement of Gregor Townsend’s first Six Nations squad and by 10am, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who completely disagreed with his choices. Ultimately, there was bound to be some omissions that fans would question the new head coach on.
Where was Glasgow’s rising star George Horne? And their determined young flanker Matt Smith? Then there’s Edinburgh – what of Jamie Ritchie who has battled through many of a defence, ball in hand this season? Or Chris Dean, an electric centre who has been instrumental for his club?
It could be argued that one, or all, of these four players wouldn’t have been out of their depth if included in the international squad. But alas, they aren’t. Perhaps we should trust Townsend’s judgement and tactics, though. Their omission from the squad could quite possibly be the making of these young players.
With 17 Glasgow and 11 Edinburgh players away on international duty, these players will become sure-starts for their respective teams.
In Glasgow, with both Ali Price and Henry Pyrgos coming up against their opponents on the international stage, George Horne is all but certain to take the starting scrum-half spot.
With this, Horne will be able to hone his craft as the ring-master of the backline, as well as the scrum put ins. This, in turn, will only help to develop his self-belief and confidence.
The other 14 players joining him on the pitch will also be provided with the opportunity to adapt to his style of play – no two scrum-halves are ever the same.
Horne certainly has made an impact on some of the sports leading commentators and journalists this season. Scott Hastings, the former Scotland international, tweeted his thoughts that: “George Horne has shown some exceptional skills.” Meanwhile, Mark Palmer, Scottish Rugby correspondent for The Sunday Times, in 2017 simply tweeted: “George Horne, by the way. Wooft.”
Meanwhile, in Edinburgh’s back division, Chris Dean has been a key player in both defence and attack. A riveting young centre, Dean will only flourish with continual game time.
With the addition of players, such as South African, Duhan Van Der Merwe, to the Edinburgh squad, the 23-year-old will be able to learn aspects of a different style of play. And this can only be seen as a positive influence on his game.
Dean himself, talking about the squad development at Edinburgh, told Telegraph journalist Richard Bath: “We are not the finished article but we will keep working as hard as we can.”
Ultimately, Dean is a promising player and is potentially a future Scotland star. In the eyes of many fans, it is simply a matter of time before he is called upon to don the blue and white of his country’s international outfit.
With a head coach as determined in his strive for progress, and wins, as Richard Cockerill, Dean’s game looks only set to improve.
Further west, in the Glasgow camp, one player who seems determined to stamp his name on the flanker positions – openside or blindside – is Matt Smith.
Coming into the start of this season, fresh off returning from injuries sustained last season, Smith made clear his intentions to learn from his fellow back rowers, and ultimately, improve his game.
Many a time this season, we have seen Smith exemplify his strength through destructive tackling and his dogged resolve to win ball and yards. It also isn’t uncommon to see him crashing over the line, gaining a pivotal five points for the Warriors.
His important work in the Glasgow forward division, could be summed up by his nomination for ‘Warrior of the Month’ for December 2017.
And now, with Rob Harley and Ryan Wilson away with Scotland, as well as Callum Gibbins still out with an injury, surely the ‘6’ or ‘7’ jersey is as good as Smith’s for the foreseeable future?
Journalist Mark Palmer, evidently saw the promise in Smith as far back as the Under-20 Six Nations in 2016. He simply tweeted: “Plenty talent in that 20s side, both in the pack and the backline. Flanker Matt Smith has Jonny Gray levels of workrate.”
From one flanker to another – one of Edinburgh’s up-and-coming back rowers, is Jamie Ritchie. He is definitely one to watch, as a future emerging leader of the Edinburgh scrum.
Stepping into the limelight this season, the 21-year-old is a harsh tackler, skilled ball carrier, and utterly relentless in defence.
Like all the other players mentioned in this article, Ritchie has represented Scotland at Under-20 level. In Ritchie’s case, his omission from this Six Nations squad will provide him with vital game time, with the absence of the selected Magnus Bradbury and Hamish Watson.
Edinburgh Rugby fans have certainly taken to him, as during their game versus Zebre, the team’s official account tweeted: “Jamie Ritchie puts in a thunderous hit and the Myreside faithful react accordingly!”
Having re-signed with Edinburgh at the tail-end of 2017, Ritchie is guaranteed to run out for the capital outfit until at least 2021. If he continues with the powerful performances that we have seen from him this season, it is evident that it will not be too much longer until Ritchie joins his Edinburgh teammates at international camp.
So yes, as with any team selection, there will always be omissions made. But perhaps these specific ones shouldn’t deflate Scotland fans, but rather make think – my goodness, the future sure looks bright, boys!