Head coach Andy Robinson has today named four uncapped players in a 34-strong Scotland squad that will convene early next month to start preparations for the Autumn Tests in earnest. The quartet are 22-year-old Glasgow Warriors stand-off Ruaridh Jackson; Edinburgh duo, scrum-half Greig Laidlaw and full-back/wing Jim Thompson; and the Northampton Saints utility back Joe Ansbro who returns to the fold for the first time since helping Robinson’s Scotland A squad capture the IRB Nations Cup in Romania in 2009.The Autumn Tests pit Scotland, currently ranked seventh in the world – their highest position since the official rankings were established – against the top two teams in the world, New Zealand and South Africa, and Pacific islanders Samoa, who will be looking to translate their rich form in the sevens arena (they are IRB World Series champions) to the XV-a-side game.
The Tests against New Zealand (Saturday 13 November) and South Africa (Saturday 20 November) are both at Murrayfield, while the Samoa match is at Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen (Saturday 27 November).
Elsewhere in the squad, which comprises 12 players from Edinburgh, eight from Glasgow and 14 Exiles, Ross Rennie, the 24-year-old Edinburgh openside flanker, who has recovered from knee problems, is in contention to add to the one cap he has won to date – against Ireland in 2008.
Robinson said: “We have chosen this squad solely to prepare and play against New Zealand with everybody having an opportunity to be selected in the match 22. There is a very good balance to the squad.”
Rennie said: “I’m delighted to have been named in the squad. It’s always a fantastic honour to get the call from your country, and I’m really looking forward to getting together with the rest of the guys and building towards what should be a fantastic series of games.
“I’ve been really enjoying my rugby this season and just want to keep working hard at my game. There are a number of huge fixtures coming up for both Edinburgh and the national team, and, like any player, I’d love to be involved.
“The guys did brilliantly to win in Argentina in the summer, so they’ll come into the Autumn Tests with plenty of confidence and keen to give the fans another few results to remember.”
Robinson is pleased by the form of a number of younger players in the squad, citing Ruaridh Jackson and Joe Ansbro.
“We set great store on improvement and Ruaridh has been working hard on his game. Joe has given some assured performances for Northampton when his team have been under pressure and he can play centre and wing which gives us options,” he explained.
Jackson commented: “I’m really happy and excited to be involved in the Autumn Tests and I can’t wait for the start of the training camp.
“Obviously you want to be playing in the games, but there’s great competition with Dan and Mossy.
“I just need to try my best and we’ll see what happens from there.”
A number of players who featured in Scotland’s last international – their 13-9 victory over Argentina in Mar del Plata in June – have been ruled out of the squad through injury namely Alastair Kellock, Johnnie Beattie, Nick de Luca and Simon Danielli.
Robinson said: “I will be looking for members of our leaders’ group to step up and take on greater responsibility.
“As an international rugby player you cannot fail to be excited by the prospect of testing yourself in front of your own fervent support against the world’s best.
“We are unbeaten in our last four games and the players are determined to build on that and produce a performance to inspire the country, so the bigger crowd we have at Murrayfield and Pittodrie the better,” he added.
The squad will gather at St Andrews for a training camp from November 1-3 and will then reconvene on Sunday 7 November for the match against the All Blacks.
Tickets for the Autumn Tests are available via www.scottishrugby.org or by calling 0844 335 3933.
Backs – Joe Ansbro (Northampton Saints), Mike Blair (Edinburgh), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Alex Grove (Edinburgh), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh), Rory Lamont (Toulon), Sean Lamont (Scarlets), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), Dan Parks (Cardiff Blues), Chris Paterson (Edinburgh), Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais), James Thompson (Edinburgh), Nikki Walker (Ospreys)
Forwards – John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), Nathan Hines (Leinster), Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Alan MacDonald (Edinburgh), Scott MacLeod (Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Ross Rennie (Edinburgh), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester) and Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors).
Not considered due to injury – Johnnie Beattie (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Phil Godman (Edinburgh) and Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors)