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Matt Fagerson seeing specialist over foot injury as Scotland coach AB Zondagh explains injury crisis

SCOTLAND’s injury worries grew last night with the news that Matt Fagerson is a serious doubt for Saturday’s match against France. The Glasgow No 8 has not yet been ruled out of the Six Nations game at Murrayfield, but assistant coach AB Zondagh revealed that Fagerson is currently seeing a specialist about the foot injury he sustained against Wales.

The loss of the 23-year-old Warriors player would be a severe blow, not only because of his emergence as the team’s first-choice No 8, but also because of the number of other key forwards already ruled out of the game. Of those who would normally be regarded as regular members of the matchday 23, loosehead prop Rory Sutherland, locks Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings, and back-row player Jamie Ritchie are currently on the casualty list. In addition, loosehead Jamie Bhatti and tighthead Javan Sebastian have also been ruled out, as has inside centre Cameron Redpath.

“Matt is with us at the moment and he will be assessed and we will see how he goes during the course of the week,” Zondagh said yesterday. “He is being assessed by a specialist at Spire Hospital and is back in camp with us, so hopefully in the next day or two we will have more information on that.”

While some of the players on the injury list should only be short-term absentees, Ritchie is out for the rest of the Championship and Bhatti looks like joining him. Zondagh said that Redpath has a neck injury, the precise nature of which has yet to be ascertained.

Four forwards and two backs have been called up in reaction to the growing casualty count. The front-row reinforcements are Oli Kebble, who is primarily a loosehead but can also play on the other side of the front row, and his Warriors team-mate Simon Berghan. In the second row, Edinburgh’s Marshall Sykes, who made his debut earlier this season against Tonga, is joined by the uncapped Glasgow lock Kiran McDonald. The additions behind the scrum are James Lang, the Edinburgh centre who has six caps, and Ollie Smith, the uncapped Warriors full-back.

The team’s resources appear particularly stretched at lock and blindside. Sam Skinner is likely to partner Grant Gilchrist in the second row with Magnus Bradbury keeping the No 6 jersey, but finding the right balance on the bench could be tricky. One piece of good news in that area, however, has been the return to fitness of Bath back-row Josh Bayliss, who missed the win against England and the defeat by Wales because of injury, but is in the squad again after impressing – and scoring – for his club against Leicester at the weekend. 

Although so many changes can be disruptive, Zondagh insisted that confidence remained high within the squad, and said that the absences would not entail any revision of the team’s game plan for the match against the Championship favourites. 

“The squad has been announced and some players are unfortunately missing out due to injury,” he continued. “But the squad has really good depth and it gives an opportunity to players to show that they’re about. Obviously most of the ones who have come in we know, and we’re excited with the squad that we have and confident that we can do a job on the weekend.

“I don’t think it will change the way we play at all. It is a great opportunity for guys in the squad to show what they are about and opportunities for players who have not been involved yet. This squad is really good and we have faith in every single player in it.”

Gregor Townsend also opted to look on the bright side in a statement issued earlier in the day, saying that enforced changes were part and parcel of the tournament. “While it is disappointing to lose players to injury ahead of the France match, this is a great opportunity for the new players to impress and force their way into our match-day squad,” the head coach said.

“The attritional nature of the Guinness Six Nations means there are often changes made to the squad throughout the championship and it is a challenge we are much better equipped to deal with given our current squad depth.” 

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