Townsend buoyed by bill of health
Head Coach Gregor Townsend was pleased to report a clean bill of health for the vast majority of Scotland’s Rugby World Cup training squad as they began preparations for the global showcase in Japan.
Glasgow Warriors hooker Fraser Brown sustained a foot injury in his club’s Guinness PRO14 final defeat to Leinster and continues his recovery with the national team medics, with Townsend welcoming his availability to compete for a place in the final 31-man group later in the summer.
He said: “We had a couple of injuries during the season, Blair Kinghorn missed the end of the season, Nick Grigg had been injured, John Barclay missed most of the season but is now back and Duncan Taylor will be fit to train fully, having also missed the season past.
“Even the players who have had long seasons, like Finn Russell – who has had the longest season of his career this year – is in good condition. Glasgow players who played in the PRO14 final and Greig [Laidlaw] who played in the Top14 Final at the weekend are all in good health.
“We saw that in training while we were away. The guys were sharp, so it’s a big positive that we have more players available to us than we’ve had during the season.”
On top of the final 31-man group there is another call to make, and that is to name the man who will lead the side as captain in Japan.
Townsend picked out many leaders in the group as part of the discussion but the final call will naturally come closer to take-off.
“We’ve had five players captain Scotland in the past 18 months – Grant Gilchrist and Stuart Hogg on tour – and in the past two Six Nations we’ve had John [Barclay], Greig [Laidlaw] and Stuart [McInally]. That gives us good leadership to work with during this camp.
“John had a really successful stint as captain, Greig has been a great captain for Scotland and Stuart was captain when we retained the Calcutta Cup, so we’ll make that decision as we get closer to the World Cup on who that captain will be.
“It’s a big responsibility, especially at a Rugby World Cup, but I think it has to be a player that’s going to play – not guaranteed but a player you know is very likely to play.
“That would be the first one, and have the respect of the players. They’ve got to show leadership skills – and that could be different attributes – and they’ve got to want to do it as well.”
The Scotland squad kicked off their pre-season campaign with an inter-squad 'race to the north' that began at the home of Stirling County.
The team-building exercise kicked-off with a gruelling cross-fit challenge at Bridgehaugh before the squad were split into six groups of six and dispatched on east and west routes, with a series of challenges to fulfil en route.
Everything from organising a game of Tartan Touch, singing in public and visiting a distillery, to interviewing Scotland player lookalikes and capturing iconic selfies were among the to-do list before being welcomed to the team hotel by a barbecue courtesy of Scotch Beef, the Official Healthy Eating Partner of Scottish Rugby.
Thereafter the camp was mixture of team training at Canal Park – home of Highland RFC – and team bonding, with Townsend reflecting positively on the whole experience of quality time together.
“It’s been really beneficial,” he added.
“We wanted to do something at the start of our world cup camp that was a bit different. We had an idea of somewhere in the north and our management team were really impressed with the facilities.
“It [Canal Park] is a fantastic set-up and is great template for other clubs to look at. Obviously, it cost money to build but the feel around the place.
“It helped facilitate what we wanted to do rugby wise but also that factor of us coming together in a place not many have been – tending to train in Edinburgh. To see this beautiful part of Scotland has been excellent.”