New Scotland coach Vern Cotter has signalled the end of the age of the “Killer Bs” by dropping the Castres No 8 Johnnie Beattie from his Six Nations squad.
Beattie, who formed such a potent back-row partnership with the flankers Kelly Brown and John Barclay at the end of the last decade, was the only member of that unit left.
Another high-calibre performer, the scrum-half Chris Cusiter, was also ditched as Cotter named four uncapped players in a 32-strong party: the 21-year-old Edinburgh half-back Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, the 6ft 7in lock Ben Toolis and the loose forwards Hugh Blake and Hamish Watson. “All these players have worked hard and shown great ambition,” said Cotter, who gave the captaincy to Gloucester’s scrum-half Greig Laidlaw.
He added: “They will want to characterise the traditional traits of Scottish rugby: attacking with ferocity, destabilising the opposition and trying to play smart.”
Centre Mark Bennett is fit again after hamstring trouble and his Glasgow team-mate, the prop Jon Welsh, returns after missing the autumn Tests with a shoulder injury.
Laidlaw is joined by five other exiles: the London Irish forwards Geoff Cross and Blair Cowan, the Saracens lock Jim Hamilton, the Castres second-rower Richie Gray and the Perpignan flanker Alasdair Strokosch.