The 2023 Six Nations tournament is just around the corner and Scotland’s injury woes are starting to mount. Gregor Townsend has already lost Zander Fagerson and Adam Hastings but now must begin the search for a Darcy Graham replacement after the Scotland winger suffered a knee injury playing for Edinburgh against Munster. With Graham having just come into the form of his life, he will be a huge miss to the side, so who, if anyone, could take his place?
The candidates to be the Scotland winger
Glasgow Warriors flyer Rufus McLean may be the closest like-for-like player to replace Graham on Scotland’s wing. McLean has pace to burn, being Glasgow’s fastest player, and also has the footwork and trickery to match. The former Merchiston Castle boy is also strong in defence, reads the game well, and partners nicely with fellow Warrior Sione Tuipulotu, who is likely to feature heavily in the tournament this year after showing some fine form for his club.
At just 22 years old, McLean has a bright future ahead of him but has already shown that he can perform on the big stage, scoring twice in just three appearances for his national side. McLean has been named by the Guinness Six Nations team as a breakthrough candidate for Scotland and one to watch for the future, so with some game time this spring he may prove his worth.
South African-born Kyle Steyn, who qualifies for Scotland through his Glaswegian mother, is another Warrior in line to fill the shoes that Graham leaves behind. Steyn has featured as a Scotland winger on five occasions, scoring four on his first full international start against Tonga at home. He also has a decent record for his club, notching 15 tries in his 58 appearances for Glasgow, including one last week when they put current URC holders, the Stormers, to the sword at Scotstoun.
Kyle Steyn really stepped up against Benetton 🔥 pic.twitter.com/UmMMQk8Jnu
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) January 6, 2020
Now, Franco Smith’s captain at the Warriors, the 28-year-old continues to improve in all aspects of his game. His positioning is clever, running is direct and he knows how to pick a line. The former Griquas man might just be the right man for the job as a Scotland winger.
Whether or not Blair Kinghorn will continue to play at 10, especially after the signing of Ben Healy, is yet to be seen. One thing that is for sure, however, is that he can most certainly do a job on the wing. Kinghorn is just 25 years old but has been a mainstay with Edinburgh since 2015 and with Scotland since 2018, scoring 291 points in 128 games and 97 in 38 respectively.
Although he has been playing at flyhalf recently for his club, Kinghorn featured on the wing in Edinburgh’s last game against Zebre, proving his versatility positionally on the pitch and his willingness to play, no matter where he is needed. While he may return to playmaker for Edinburgh, there is a necessity for a Scotland winger, and the 6 ft 4 utility player may just be pulling on that number 14 shirt once again.
With over 100 caps for Saracens and over 50 for Scotland, the answer to Gregor Townsend’s winger problem may lie in the shape of Sean Maitland. The New Zealand-born back has now been part of the setup at BT Murrayfield for a decade, having made his debut in the 2013 Six Nations competition. He has scored 15 tries white wearing blue, the most recent of which came in a home win against France in 2020. In the 14 games that he has scored in, Scotland has lost just once and that was in the first game that Maitland grabbed a try back in 2013. In every game that he has scored in since Scotland has won.
Maitland brings bags of experience to the side and is also able to cover all positions across the back three. He has scored in Champions Cup finals, and consecutive World Cup tournaments and has even worn the red jersey for the British and Irish Lions. Fans know what kind of Scotland winger you get with Sean Maitland and the 34-year-old still has plenty in the tank to make this a successful spring.
A desperate need for a Scotland winger
Scotland has had a torrid time of late concerning injuries and the list just seems to continue to grow. Their strength in depth is being stretched and with a player as influential as Darcy Graham sidelined, a new Scotland winger must step up to the plate and perform at the very highest level. This holds especially true with the 2023 Rugby World Cup coming up later this year and the 2023 Guinness Six Nations starting next month.
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