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Why Tim Swinson Has Most to Prove for Scotland After 2 Games of Six Nations

Danny Coyle@dannyjpcoyleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2015

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 07: Tim Swinson passes the ball during the Scotland captain's run at Murrayfield Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

Scotland have suffered two narrow defeats in this Six Nations and face the familiar scenario of a potential wooden-spoon decider with Italy.

But the usual hangover of depression that has often accompanied such starts to the Championship for the Scots is missing.

In its place is a stoic optimism that, despite the scoreboard, the evidence in both 80-minute showings this season suggests the Scots are climbing out of the doldrums.

They have a powerful front row, a pacey back row trio, a half-back combination always capable of doing damage and a world-class operator behind them in Stuart Hogg.

So this task is a tricky one to pick on any of the key performers who need to radically up their game for the remainder of the tournament.

Instead, the focus has come to rest on a man who has just been drafted into the squad.

Injury to Richie Gray has ruled the big second row out for the rest of the competition and opened the door for a player who has fallen rather quickly from first choice lock alongside Gray to surplus to requirements in Vern Cotter’s initial Six Nations squad.

Step forward Tim Swinson of Glasgow Warriors.

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Swinson played in four of last season’s Six Nations games under Scott Johnson, having made his debut the previous summer in South Africa. He also featured in the 2014 summer tour off the bench in Argentina and started against the Springboks.

Injury then struck the former Newcastle Falcon.

Swinson suffered a back spasm in the captain’s run before Scotland’s autumn clash with the All Blacks, per the Herald Scotland, then damaged a calf four days before Cotter announced his squad for the 2015 Championship.

He has recovered to string together a run of games for the Warriors, and so when Gray suffered his arm tendon injury that ended his Six Nations, Swinson was the next cab off the rank.

He has joined the squad then, but he has plenty to prove if he features in the coming three games.

1. The men ahead

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  (L-R) Tim Swinson and James Hamilton of Scotland look on during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and England at Murrayfield Stadium on February 8, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Ima
David Rogers/Getty Images

Barring injury it would seem Richie’s younger brother Jonny will retain his place in the second row. When Gray the elder departed the fray against Wales, he was replaced by stalwart Jim Hamilton, so Swinson is going to have to fight his way past Hamilton for some game time.

Then there is Ben Toolis, who by rights should be the man on the bench if the pecking order is observed. Swinson may take umbrage at that. Here is an Australian-born player fresh into the Edinburgh development squad last summer and previously harbouring hopes of playing Volleyball for his homeland, per the Scotsman.

Swinson’s nine caps and greater experience at the top level must surely count for something and he may well be able to usurp Toolis on the replacements’ bench.

2. His last outing

Uncredited/Associated Press

There is nothing like an almighty thrashing to motivate you for your next performance. Swinson’s last appearance in the blue of Scotland saw them hammered 55-6 by the Boks.

Add to that the frustration he suffered against Italy during the last Six Nations, when he was poised to come off the bench until both men he could have replaced started struggling, as he told the Scotsman:

‘It was one of the most depressing feelings. At the end Richie Gray and Ryan Wilson were both struggling with injury but they didn’t know which one to take off in case the other one collapsed and in the end neither did.

‘I can understand why it happened but it does not make it any easier to deal with after the game – so it would be nice to get a run out against them this time round. But we’ll just have to wait and see what the coaches decide.’

3. His big chance this weekend

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 18:  Tim Swinson of Glasgow Warriors is tackled by Anthony Watson of Bath Rugby during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Glasgow Warriors and Bath Rugby at Scotstoun Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Glasgow Scotland.
Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

While most of the squad players will rest on the blank Six Nations weekend, Swinson, as a man on the comeback trail and in need of games, will turn out for the Warriors in their top-of-the-table Pro 12 clash with Ospreys.

It’s a fixture that gives the second row the perfect shop window both to prove his fitness and show what he can do against quality opposition. A great chance to stake a claim for a starting shirt against Italy.

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