Having just two professional teams – Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors – where their players can earn a living at home means Scottish players are in the habit of spreading their wings.
Here, RugbyPass picks its Scottish Exiled XV, a team featuring 11 players based in England, three in France and one in Wales.
15 – STUART HOGG (Exeter Chiefs)
Hogg’s summer move from Glasgow Warriors could easily be the signing of the new Gallagher Premiership season. With the quality of the players around him improved over the past few seasons at Scotstoun, Hogg matured his game and often acted as a second playmaker, drawing defenders to release his team-mates. He remains a lethal runner and his talent should take ambitious Exeter up a level as they bid to conquer Europe and regain the Premiership title they last won in 2017.
14 – SEAN MAITLAND (Saracens)
Originally from Tokoroa in New Zealand, Maitland has played most of his rugby outside Scotland. The past three years have been spent at Saracens where he has picked up two European Champions Cup and two English Premiership medals. He remains an integral part of Gregor Townsend’s Scottish team with his ability under the high ball, his defence and his flexibility to play across the back three.
13 – RORY HUTCHINSON (Northampton Saints)
It wasn’t so long ago that Scottish fans would expect plenty of uncapped players in RWC training squads to make up the numbers. Hutchinson, though, is definitely not there to hold tackle bags this summer. He had an astonishing second half to the recent Premiership season, even winning the inaugural RugbyPass player of the month award in March. Saints coach Chris Boyd has said: “His skillset is far more suited to the southern hemisphere because he is a high-risk player.” That is something likely to see him fit in well with his new Scottish team-mates.
12 – DUNCAN TAYLOR (Saracens)
Taylor has played all his rugby in England, first for Bedford and – since 2012 – for Saracens. As Scotland’s defensive captain, his communication and coolness under pressure are missed when he is away, but he has now been given a place in the Scottish training squad despite missing most of the past season with an ACL injury. He can also cover outside centre and the back three, versatility that will be greatly appreciated in the confines of a 31-man RWC squad.
— duncan taylor (@duncantaylor3) May 30, 2016
11 – BYRON McGUIGAN (Sale Sharks)
Namibian-born McGuigan is well-travelled, having raced down the wing for sides in South Africa, Scotland, New Zealand, and England. He struggled at Glasgow Warriors under now-Scottish coach Townsend but his efforts at Sale have resulted in his former club coach summoning him for international duty. His sevens background may give him an edge in RWC selection.
10 – FINN RUSSELL (Racing 92)
What a move Russell’s switch from Glasgow to France has proved. Many players find life in the Top 14 difficult – the pressure to play every week, never mind the pressure to perform. Russell, however, has thrived. Racing’s huge pack gives him the platform he needs and their talented backs seem able to meet his vision of how the game should be played. The intense La Défense Arena is the perfect stage for his ability – and its big screen allow him to check the movements of other players without looking over his shoulder.
9 – GREIG LAIDLAW (Clermont)
Laidlaw’s signing by Clermont in 2017 provoked amusement in some quarters as his supposedly slow game was seen as a poor match for the French club’s fast playing style. Les Jaunards, however, seem to have worked out before Scotland did that even the most ambitious attacking game needs a steady hand somewhere in the team. Laidlaw’s cool head, experience and nerveless kicking have gone down very well in France and led to a revival in his international fortunes.
1 – GORDON REID (London Irish)
Having moved to London Irish in 2017, Reid will shortly be club-less as the newly promoted Premiership outfit confirmed in May he would not be retained for the new season. It is possible that his probable involvement in RWC will count against him finding another contract outside of Scotland. He could fancy his chance of a move to France, although a return to Glasgow may be on the cards with Jamie Bhatti moving to Edinburgh. The savvy scrummager – a PRO12 title winner with 34 caps – is sure to find a club somewhere.
2 – JAKE KERR (Leicester Tigers)
Despite Leicester’s woes, Kerr’s impressive season suggested he might leapfrog George Turner as third-choice Scotland hooker. That hasn’t yet happened and the former Edinburgh academy player’s only cap so far was earned against Italy in the recent Six Nations. At 23, however, he will surely get more chances, especially as he will continue to learn at Leicester from more experienced hookers Tatafu Polota-Nau and Tom Youngs.
3 – KYLE WHYTE (London Scottish)
South-African born prop Kyle Whyte first came to attention in 2016 when he came to Edinburgh and signed a Premiership partnership contract with Watsonians. Having qualified through his Inverness-born father, he hoped to make a Test level breakthrough but it wasn’t to be. Now, following stints at Natal Sharks and Bayonne, he finds himself preparing for life in the English Championship with London Scottish.
INTERVIEW | Skinn in the Game.
Skinner reflects on his fairy tale introduction to the national team, bookending the Six Nations against Italy & England, and how camaraderie, not competition, is driving the players in the #RWC2019 training camp.https://t.co/CFfocnbrgT
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) July 5, 2019
4 – SAM SKINNER (Exeter Chiefs)
For a time, Skinner seemed torn between England and Scotland, both of whom he grew up supporting. He was a member of the Scottish Exiles programme from a young age but also played for the England Under-20s in 2015. He threw his allegiance in with Scotland, however, and put in a man-of-the-match performance in his Test debut against Fiji last November. The Exeter forward’s all-round game, huge workrate and ability to cover the blindside means he seems certain to be in Scotland’s final RWC squad.
5 – RICHIE GRAY (Toulouse)
Gray left Glasgow for pastures new in 2012 and played for Sale Sharks and Castres Olympique before arriving at French giants Toulouse where he finished the past season as a Top 14 title winner. Injury problems have allowed a number of Scottish second row competitors to steal a march on him and he didn’t make Townsend’s summer training squad. That said, with his 62 caps and set-piece excellence, he might still be in with a chance of an injury call-up.
6 – BLADE THOMSON (Scarlets)
Concussion prevented the New Zealander securing his first Scotland cap last November after he had been called in by Townsend, but he is now back involved in their 44-strong squad preparing for RWC. From the moment the 28-year-old signed for Scarlets, it was always likely Townsend would take a look at the ball-playing forward. Equally proficient in the lineout and back row, he is comfortable with ball in hand, possesses excellent footwork and should do well for Scotland when he finally gets his chance.
7 – GARY GRAHAM (Newcastle Falcons)
The return of John Barclay and the emergence of Marcus Bradbury, Matt Fagerson, and Hamish Watson mean Scotland are less reliant on overseas players to stock their back row. But they continue to proactively recruit outside, as Graham’s emergence demonstrates. As recently as the 2018 Six Nations, he was in the England squad but a lack of game time left him eligible to return to his first international allegiance. Newcastle’s recent relegation means he may well follow his England club-mate Mark Wilson and go on loan elsewhere to maintain his international chances.
8 – JOSH STRAUSS (Sale Sharks)
Having acquired Scottish eligibility after three impressive seasons with Glasgow, he was called up at the first opportunity in 2015 and featured in the World Cup. His subsequent departure from the Warriors in 2017 raised concerns about Scotland’s policy surrounding overseas recruitment, but he remains a valued player despite the recent increase in back row competition.
WATCH: Part one of the two-part RugbyPass documentary on the many adventures that Scottish fans can expect to experience in Japan at this year’s World Cup
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