Head coach Vern Cotter today named Edinburgh Rugby lock Grant Gilchrist as captain of a 33-man Scotland squad selected for the 2014 viagogo Autumn Tests.
The honour represents a return for the 24-year-old product of Alloa and Stirling County rugby clubs, who led Scotland twice during the summer tour, including a 21-19 victory over Argentina in Cordoba.
He will return to the role against the same opposition when the Tests get underway at BT Murrayfield next month, when Scotland face the Pumas on Saturday 8 November (kick-off 5.30pm), before facing Rugby Championship winners New Zealand, at the same venue (15 November), followed by Tonga at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (22 November).
“We want to develop, and impose, our style, will, and strategy on our opposition. We want to play well, and enjoy playing in front of our home crowd.”
Gilchrist [pictured right] is joined by a further five of his Edinburgh Rugby clubmen, for whom he is vice captain week in, week out, with a further 17 players coming from Glasgow Warriors, and 10 from clubs outside Scotland.
Among the group is just one uncapped player, 21-year-old outside-centre, Mark Bennett, who scored twice in Glasgow Warriors’ five-try win over Bath in the European Rugby Champions Cup on Saturday.
A product of St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock, Cumnock RFC and Ayr RFC, Bennett was selected, but not capped, in last season’s viagogo Autumn Tests and missed Scotland’s summer tour because of commitments to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Assessing the nation’s opponents this autumn, Cotter added: “Argentina will offer us a very stern test, especially scrum time. They have good variety and move the ball well from nine, through the middle of the paddock and out the back.
“The All Blacks have just won the Rugby Championship and are the best team in the world, so we’ll have to be on our toes.
“They also have more variety in their kicking game so covering space in the back field will be important.
“Defensively, we’re going to get tested, which is good because we want to show that our defence has improved.
“Tonga will be the final big test psychologically, having come through two big games, to play away from BT Murrayfield, and needing to put in a good performance at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock.
“It’s essential that we show maturity, mental strength and adaptability throughout the series.
SCOTLAND 2014 VIAGOGO AUTUMN TEST SQUAD
FORWARDS: Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors), Johnnie Beattie (Castres), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan, Geoff Cross (both London Irish), Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (both Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist CAPTAIN (Edinburgh Rugby), Robert Harley, Jonny Gray (both Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Kieran Low (London Irish), Euan Murray, Gordon Reid (both Glasgow Warriors) Alasdair Strokosch (USA Perpignan), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors).
BACKS: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Cusiter (Sale Sharks), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Dougie Fife, Tom Heathcote (both Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Henry Pyrgos, Tommy Seymour (all Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors).
Invited to train with the squad: Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby).
Not considered through injury: David Denton (returning from injury, Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant (returning from injury, Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (knee, London Wasps), Ross Rennie (knee, Bristol Rugby), Matt Scott (shoulder, Edinburgh Rugby), Jon Welsh, Ryan Wilson (both returning from injury, Glasgow Warriors).