Edinburgh - Head coach Gregor Townsend believes Scotland can challenge for the
Six Nations crown despite an extensive injury list containing 19
Townsend has named seven uncapped players in his 39-man squad for the tournament, which starts early next month.
Former skipper John Barclay, Zander Fagerson and Richie Gray are
missing and Townsend admits he will be down to the bare bones in a
number of key positions when they open their championship campaign at
home to Italy on February 2.
But he is refusing to rule the Scots, who finished third last year, out of the title hunt.
"Every team will have injury challenges, but every team will be going
into the tournament believing they can win," said Townsend. "That's the
only reason we take part - to win the next game and then win the
trophy at the end of the tournament.
"We believe in our squad. We've seen how they've taken on the best in
the world over the past few years and on some of those occasions we had
a lot of injuries."
Townsend hopes the roll-call of absentees will have reduced
significantly in time for their third fixture away to France on February
Glasgow hookers Fraser Brown and George Turner fall into that
category, but currently their absences leave the head coach with
Edinburgh's Stuart McInally as his sole experienced campaigner in the
centre of his front row.
Three rookies - Edinburgh's David Cherry, Leicester's Jake Kerr and
Grant Stewart of Glasgow - will offer cover and Townsend said he has
faith in his uncapped new faces, despite their lack of international
With Ireland, Wales and England occupying three of the top four slots
in the world rankings, Townsend said this year's Six Nations could be
among the toughest ever.
Townsend, who has also handed call-ups to the uncapped Gary Graham,
D'Arcy Rae, Sam Johnson and Chris Dean, said: "It's been competitive
over the last few years, you've got teams finding it difficult to win
away from home because the teams they are up against are so good.
"I don't believe there has ever been a championship where the number
two, number three and number four teams in the world are Ireland, Wales
and England, so it shows the quality of opposition we'll be facing."
Newcastle back-row John Hardie makes his return to a Scotland squad
for the first time since the 2018 Six Nations, while stalwarts Jonny
Gray and Tommy Seymour could rack up their half centuries of caps after
also being named in Townsend's selection.
Forwards: Alex Allan (Glasgow), Adam Ashe (Glasgow), Simon Berghan
(Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow), David Cherry (Edinburgh), Allan
Dell (Edinburgh), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Gary Graham (Newcastle),
Jonny Gray (Glasgow), John Hardie (Newcastle/ENG), Jake Kerr
(Leicester), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), D'Arcy
Rae (Glasgow), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Exeter/ENG),
Grant Stewart (Glasgow), Josh Strauss (Sale/ENG), Tim Swinson (Glasgow),
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson
Backs: Chris Dean (Edinburgh), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Nick Grigg
(Glasgow), Sam Johnson (Glasgow), Chris Harris (Newcastle/ENG), Adam
Hastings (Glasgow), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow), George Horne (Glasgow), Pete
Horne (Glasgow), Huw Jones (Glasgow), Lee Jones (Glasgow), Blair
Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (capt, Clermont/FRA), Sean Maitland
(Saracens/ENG), Ali Price (Glasgow), Finn Russell (Racing 92/FRA), Tommy