Scotland coach Vern Cotter has named four uncapped Edinburgh players in his squad for the upcoming Six Nations Championship.
21-year-old scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22-year-old forwards Ben Toolis (lock) and Hugh Blake (back-row), and 24-year-old back-row Hamish Watson will get their first shot at senior international honours after being included in the 32-man squad.
Hidalgo-Clyne has been in the form of his fledgling career this season, featuring in every Edinburgh game so far (starting 12 of 18), with his match-winning goal kicking a recent addition to an already impressive armoury.
Back-row Watson is another to have played through the Scottish age-grade sides and come the club’s development programme, after his move north from the Leicester Tigers Academy four years ago.
This season the specialist openside has come into his own, with his pace and work-rate earning him an invite to train in the autumn, only for a broken jaw sustained in European competition to end his chances of, until now, taking the step into the senior Scotland squad.
Like Hidalgo-Clyne, 6ft 7in lock Toolis is another player who has impressed through opportunity, by stepping into the breach for injured lock Grant Gilchrist for club, and now country, since he joined the side’s academy from Australia in the summer of 2013.
Finally, new Edinburgh recruit Blake comes into the squad for the first time having arrived in Scotland from Super Rugby side, the Highlanders, in December.
“All these players have worked hard and have shown great ambition to seize this opportunity. That’s the type of player we want in this environment,” said Cotter.
“They have impressed me with their desire to go forward, and reflect the Scottish spirit of attacking and leading, to develop into impressive performers.”
The quartet will join a further seven of their capital club mates, including Greig Tonks, selected for Scotland for the first time since his positional switch to fly-off, having made his first and only international appearance at full-back against Samoa on the 2013 summer tour.
The squad is also boosted by the return of 21-times capped centre Matt Scott, who missed last year’s June tour and November Test campaigns, with shoulder and hand injuries respectively.
Despite the strong capital contingent, Glasgow Warriors – currently second in the Guinness PRO12 – continue to contribute the majority of the squad, with 15 players all in.
Among them is centre Mark Bennett who, like Scott, has recovered from injury (hamstring) to return to the fold.
Tight-head prop Jon Welsh (absent through a shoulder injury) also earns a recall, while Peter Horne could feature for the first time since the summer tour.
The group is completed by a further six players from clubs outside Scotland: captain Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Blair Cowan and Geoff Cross (both London Irish), who return to the squad following their part in the 2014 viagogo Autumn Tests.
“We are approaching this RBS 6 Nations looking to perform and develop,” added Cotter.
“It will be a great process for us and I know the players are looking forward to it.
“Obviously we’ll be facing some very good sides, four of which are above us in the world rankings, however we have nothing to hide going into this year.
“We start with a very difficult game against France in Paris and we will prepare as best as possible for that game and adapt as the competition evolves.”
“The players will want to characterise the traditional traits of the Scottish game; attacking with ferocity, destabilising the opposition and trying to play smart.
“Every time they pull on the jersey they will want to express themselves fully, so it’s with excitement that we look to the Six Nations, because we want to see how far we can compete, how well we can adapt, and how well we can equip ourselves in this very tough competition.”
Scotland 2015 Six Nations squad:
Forwards: Hugh Blake (Edinburgh ), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan, Geoff Cross (both London Irish), David Denton, Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh ), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Ross Ford (Edinburgh ), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Rob Harley, Euan Murray, Gordon Reid (all Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Ben Toolis, Hamish Watson (both Edinburgh ), Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors).
Backs: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh ), Alex Dunbar, (Glasgow Warriors) Dougie Fife (Edinburgh ), Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne (both Glasgow Warriors) Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Gloucester), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell (all Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh ), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Tonks, Tim Visser (both Edinburgh ).
Unavailable through injury: Adam Ashe (neck), Chris Fusaro (ankle), Grant Gilchrist (arm), Tyrone Holmes (face), Ruaridh Jackson (knee), Duncan Taylor (hamstring), Duncan Weir (arm).