Adam Ashe, the 20-year-old Glasgow Warriors No 8, will become the seventh new cap of Scotland’s summer tour when he takes to the field against South Africa in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Ashe, a product of the Hillfoots and Stirling County clubs, was preparing for club training at Canterbury University in Christchurch one week ago, having been domiciled for a couple of months in New Zealand’s South Island as recipient of the John Macphail Scholarship.
Others have graduated to full international honours and have cited the “invaluable” experience the scholarship has bequeathed them, for example, John Barclay, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray and Kevin Bryce.
But none has won promotion so rapidly as Ashe, one of four changes from the starting line-up following the victory against Argentina in Cordoba last Friday, which preserved the tour’s 100% record (after wins against the USA and Canada) and the ongoing successful beginning to Vern Cotter’s tenure as Scotland head coach.
The other changes see Henry Pyrgos start instead of Grayson Hart at scrum-half; Tim Swinson preferred to his fellow Glasgow Warrior, Gray, at lock and Chris Fusaro promoted from the bench instead of Blair Cowan who has returned home. Pyrgos, among the try scorers in Cordoba last week, scored his first international try against South Africa two years ago.
Cotter has done his due diligence on Ashe and has seen enough in training here this week to mean that he will be Scotland’s 1060th cap this weekend.
“He is a talented player and the reports of his form in New Zealand have been very positive,” Cotter told www.scottishrugby.org
“He’s trained well with us and looked sharp. He is a specialist No 8 and this is a golden opportunity for him.”
Ashe, who has played for Scotland at every age-grade level and was part of the Scotland 7s squad at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in 2011, is excited by his debut. “South Africa will be a massive physical challenge but you have to relish a chance like this,” he said.
Local Eastern Province officials say a crowd in excess of 35,000 – more than watched South Africa’s two recent Tests against Wales – will be present on Saturday.
As far as the other changes are concerned, Cotter stressed that both Gray and Hart had done well in Cordoba, but for this particular game he wished to start with Swinson and Pyrgos.
On the bench, only Dougie Fife remains from last week with the prospect of Tyrone Holmes, the 28-year-old Glasgow Warriors back-row forward, becoming Scotland’s eighth debutant of the tour, while at the other end of the experience scale, British Lions prop Euan Murray would be winning his 60th cap, should he be introduced.
Cotter added: “I’ve always regarded playing South Africa in South Africa as the benchmark. It’s a massive challenge and it gives our boys an opportunity to lift their level.
“If we can make accurate choices in the way we play and impose our form of rugby then I think that will be a shift in the right direction.
“I’ve been pleased with the initiative that’s developing within the team. We’re starting to get good variety in our game. Now it’s a matter of seeing if we can do it against very good opposition.”
15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) 23 caps, 6 tries, 1 penalty, 33 points
14 Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors) 12 caps, 1 try, 5 points
13 Nick De Luca (Biarritz) 42 caps, 1 try, 5 points
12 Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
11 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) 9 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
10 Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors) 14 caps, 1 try, 4 conversions, 4 penalties, 1 drop-goal, 28 points
9 Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
1 Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby) 35 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) 76 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
3 Geoff Cross (London Irish) 31 caps, 1 try, 5 points
4 Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) 8 caps
5 Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) 7 caps, 1 try, 5 points, CAPTAIN
6 Robert Harley (Glasgow Warriors) 6 caps, 1 try, 5 points
7 Chris Fusaro (Glasgow Warriors) 3 caps
8 Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors) uncapped
16 Kevin Bryce (Glasgow Warriors) 1 cap
17 Moray Low (Exeter Chiefs) 28 caps
18 Euan Murray (Glasgow Warriors) 59 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
19 Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
20 Tyrone Holmes (Glasgow Warriors) uncapped
21 Grayson Hart (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps
22 Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps
23 Peter Murchie (Glasgow Warriors) 2 caps
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand). Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France) and Marius Mitrea (Italy). TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand).
New caps on the 2014 summer tour: Blair Cowan, Gordon Reid, Finn Russell, Alex Allan, Kevin Bryce, Grayson Hart and Adam Ashe.