Ryan Grant, the loose-head prop from Fife who made two non-Test starts for the British & Irish Lions on their victorious tour of Australia in 2013, was drafted into the Scotland squad on Sunday ahead of the Six Nations match against France in Paris this weekend.
The 29-year-old Glasgow forward had been left out of the original party because he faced court proceedings on an assault charge, but the case against him was found not proven – a verdict that led to an immediate call-up from the new national coach, Vern Cotter.
Grant, who made his international debut in 2012 and has been capped on 19 occasions, is now expected to play a significant part in the forthcoming tournament, although he faces competition from his club colleague Gordon Reid and, perhaps more significantly, Alasdair Dickinson of Edinburgh, who started the autumn Tests against Argentina and New Zealand.
Whoever is given the start against France, the pleasure is likely to be dubious in the extreme. Philippe Saint-André, head coach of Les Bleus, may have been a brilliant counter-attacking wing during his playing days, but he was in reality a back in tight forward’s clothing: the way he sees it, the heavy mob are the men who win rugby matches and, after naming five props for the visit of the Scots, he kept all of them in cotton wool over the weekend rather than release one or two back to their clubs for an important round of Top 14 games.
Interestingly, the coach fleshed out his squad by summoning eight players on the strength of their domestic league displays: two of them from the high-performing Parisian side Racing Métro, the full-back Brice Dulin and the flanker Wenceslas Lauret; two from Toulouse, the midfielder Gaël Fickou and the back-rower Yannick Nyanga; a couple of wings in Noa Nakaitaci of Clermont Auvergne and Sofiani Guitoune of Perpignan; the Castres centre Rémi Lamerat; and the Stade Français lock Alexandre Flanquart.
Of those, Dulin is of special interest. Ruled out of international business in the autumn after suffering a stress fracture of the fibula and absent from last month’s training camp because of an arm injury, the man who did more than most to spark the French attacking game into life last season put a solo try past Lyon at the weekend and propelled himself straight back into Saint-André’s thinking. The Toulon scrum-half Sébastien Tillous-Borde is out of the running with knee trouble, however, as is the Toulouse No 8 Louis Picamoles, yet to regain full fitness following thigh problems.
Meanwhile, the uncapped Exeter playmaker Henry Slade was training with England yesterday following an impressive contribution to the second-string Saxons’ victory over the Irish Wolfhounds in Cork on Friday night and has a strong chance of playing an active part in the Six Nations campaign. The 21-year-old Devonian, who can operate across the midfield positions, was joined in camp by another strong performer in the south-west of Ireland, the Bath prop Henry Thomas.Reuse content