Gregor Townsend will not close the door on George Turner’s Scotland career

Gregor Townsend is adamant the door is not closed on George Turner’s Scotland career although he acknowledged it will be “challenging” for the hooker to represent the national team while playing his club rugby in Japan.

It was announced earlier this week that the 31-year-old front-rower will join Kobe Steelers next term following seven seasons with Glasgow in which he has established himself as his country’s first-choice in the number two jersey.

The Japan Rugby League One campaign continues to run throughout the Six Nations, raising obvious logistical issues for Turner in relation to continuing to play for Scotland.

The hooker was one of a number of experienced players left out of the 37-man squad named on Wednesday for the summer tour of the Americas – incorporating matches against Canada, USA, Chile and Uruguay – but Townsend insists he is keeping an open mind with regard to Turner’s prospects of adding to his 45 caps.

“We’ll see,” said the head coach, when asked about the hooker’s international future. “He’s obviously a player who has played really well for us and for Glasgow. We think highly of him, the fact he’s started so many games for us shows what an important player he’s been.

“We wish him all the best with his new chapter in his career. I think it will be challenging for him to play international rugby given that their season is on at the same time as our season, especially Six Nations time, and just with travel from Japan, but we’ll see with that further down the line.”

Asked if the door remained open for him to play for Scotland if circumstances in the future allowed it, Townsend said: “Absolutely. We think really highly of George as a person and a player.

“He’s someone who has put his body on the line literally over the years for Scotland and we believe there is still a lot of rugby left in him.

George Turner
George Turner had established himself as Scotland’s first-choice hooker (Adam Davy/PA)

“We had ongoing conversations throughout the Six Nations, the agreement was done during that period, so we were well aware it was an option for him to go to Kobe.

“I know it was a tough decision for him to leave Glasgow and potentially have a change to his international career but it’s also an opportunity that he thinks is right for himself and his family.

“We’ll see what happens. He’s obviously just been announced as going to Kobe, and we also want to see what happens this summer with the four hookers we have in the squad, especially the three new players in that position.

“We’re hoping that one, if not all three, come through and are knocking on the door for Test selection in November.”

Dylan Richardson
Dylan Richardson has a chance to stake a claim at hooker for Scotland (Adam Davy/PA)

In Turner’s absence, the relatively experienced pair of Johnny Matthews and Dave Cherry have also been left out, with Townsend giving opportunities to the untried trio of Northampton’s Robbie Smith, Sharks’ Dylan Richardson and Edinburgh’s Paddy Harrison alongside the more senior Ewan Ashman as he bids to “grow depth” at hooker.

“With Johnny Matthews and Dave Cherry, those are experienced players that have been in our environment before,” he said. “On this occasion, we wanted to see players we haven’t worked with before who could go out and grab their opportunity.

“Dylan Richardson has been in our environment as a back-rower but he’s played well at hooker this year for the Sharks when he’s been available so we see him growing in that position, and Paddy Harrison and Robbie Smith are two players for the future.”

Smith and Harrison are two of 10 uncapped players in the summer tour squad alongside Nathan McBeth, Will Hurd, Max Williamson, Ewan Johnson, Gregor Brown, Gus Warr, Arron Reed and Matt Currie.

Duhan Van Der Merwe
Duhan Van Der Merwe is one of the most experienced players in Scotland’s summer tour squad (Brian Lawless/PA)

In addition to Turner, experienced players like Finn Russell, Grant Gilchrist, Richie Gray, Jack Dempsey, Darcy Graham, Ben White, Ali Price, Zander Fagerson and Blair Kinghorn have been left out, with Townsend attributing this to “challenges they’ve had over the last 12 months and the challenges they potentially have coming up over the next 12 months”.

However, there remains a senior core to the squad, with Rory Darge, Jamie Ritchie, Pierre Schoeman, Duhan van der Merwe, Huw Jones, Kyle Steyn, Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones all included.

“One exciting thing about this summer tour is we’re going to be working with new players we’ve never worked with before,” said Townsend. “But also it’s an opportunity to grow more leadership experience.

“There will be players who get to captain the team or be co-captains throughout the tour. We will change the teams, especially in the first two games, so more players will get that experience.”