With Chris Paterson and Nathan Hines on the international retirement list, and a new World Cup cycle in motion, there was always likely to be a surprise name in the Scotland squad for the Six Nations Championship. Not that anyone was expecting quite the kind of bombshell caused by Steve Shingler's inclusion on the 36-man list.
It led to the Welsh Rugby Union issuing a statement maintaining that the Swansea-born, Welsh-raised London Irish centre-cum-fly-half was effectively tied to Wales at senior level because of an appearance for the Welsh Under-20 team against France last season – and to Scottish Rugby releasing a counter-claim, insisting that the 20-year-old had signed no agreement to make himself available for the Welsh senior team.
The tug of war started with Andy Robinson, Scotland's head coach, telling a Murrayfield press conference that Shingler (right) was one of six uncapped players in his squad for the opening two games of the Six Nations – against England in Edinburgh on 4 February and against Wales in Cardiff eight days later – because the former Scarlets player's mother was born in Dumfries.
The WRU then issued a statement: "All Welsh players who represent Wales at Under-20 level against nations which also designate their Under-20 teams as their qualification sides are informed that they will then be registered as liable for Wales selection only at senior level. All the Under-20 players who represented Wales against France at Under -20 level in 2011 were informed that they would then become Wales-qualified players only at senior level."
That prompted the following response from Scottish Rugby: "Although Steven played for Wales Under-20 against France Under-20 last season, he has confirmed to Scottish Rugby that he declined to sign a declaration from the WRU that he was committed solely to representing Wales at senior level. Steven has informed us that he made it clear that he wished to leave open his international eligibility as he was also eligible to represent Scotland and England as well as Wales.
"Scottish Rugby believes we have acted in good faith in this matter and have also taken cognisance of an International Rugby Board ruling last year concerning two players who played for Wales Under-20 against France Under-20 in 2010 who now play for Connacht and are eligible for Ireland. We are liaising with the IRB on this matter."
It will be up to the global governing body to make a definitive ruling on Shingler (left), who last year appeared in an advert on S4C television promoting the Wales v England Six Nations contest. The trailer featured a succession of Welsh greats – including Cliff Morgan, Barry John and Phil Bennett – pulling on their red jerseys in a dressing room, before Shingler appeared, accompanied by the caption "O Caps... Yet."
"I would be massively proud to play for Scotland," Shingler said yesterday.
Scotland squad for the Six Nations, starting against England on 4 February:
Backs J Ansbro (London Irish), M Blair (Edinburgh), C Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), S Danielli (Ulster), N De Luca (Edinburgh), M Evans (Castres), S Hogg, R Jackson (both Glasgow Warriors), L Jones, G Laidlaw (both Edinburgh), R Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), S Lamont (Scarlets), R Lawson (Gloucester), G Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), D Parks (Cardiff Blues), S Shingler (London Irish), D Weir (Glasgow Warriors).
Forwards J Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), K Brown (Saracens), G Cross, D Denton (both Edinburgh Rugby), A Dickinson (Sale Sharks), R Ford (Edinburgh Rugby), R Gray, D Hall (both Glasgow Warriors), J Hamilton (Gloucester), R Harley (Glasgow Warriors), A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), A Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), S Lawson (Gloucester), M Low (Glasgow Warriors), F McKenzie (Sale Sharks), E Murray (Newcastle Falcons), R Rennie (Edinburgh Rugby), A Strokosch (Gloucester), R Vernon (Sale Sharks).