Walker and Grove selected for Scotland A side

Head coach Shade Munro has named Worcester duo Alex Grove and Nikki Walker in his Scotland A side to face England Saxons this Friday (kick-off 8pm) at Kingston Park.

Last season Scotland’s back-up senior side ran in four unanswered tries to win 35-0 against their English counterparts at Netherdale, and now prepare for a return fixture at the home of Newcastle Falcons.

Ten of the squad that secured the emphatic win last year went on to earn full international honours, with six of the 22-man squad returning to face the Saxons once more: centre Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), prop Jon Welsh, lock Tom Ryder (both Glasgow Warriors), and back-row trio Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby), Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks) and captain Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).

Bath Rugby’s Tom Heathcote, who earned his first and only cap to date in the 2012 EMC Tests, starts at stand-off along side 21-year-old scrum-half, Sean Kennedy, one of the eight uncapped players in the starting-lineup.

Fellow uncapped Warrior Alex Dunbar steps into the inside-centre slot (vacated by Scotland regular, Matt Scott) to partner Grove in midfield.

The 24-times capped Worcester Warriors winger Nikki Walker completes a long-awaited return to the international fold, after a knee injury in the 2011 EMC Tests ruled him out of a then certain spot in the senior Rugby World Cup squad.

His inclusion adds experience to the back-line, which is completed by uncapped Edinburgh Rugby full-back Greig Tonks and 2012 Melrose Sevens winner, Duncan Taylor (Saracens), both of whom qualify for Scotland through Scottish parents: Taylor through mother and father Lindsay and Colin, from Stranraer and Glasgow respectively, and Tonks through his Ayrshire-born mother, Lena.

Up front, 24-times capped loose-head prop Alasdair Dickinson packs down alongside uncapped Edinburgh Rugby hooker, Steven Lawrie, and returning once-capped tight-head Welsh, to complete a front-row of players returning from injury (shoulder, knee and shoulder) all desperate to ignite their international ambitions.

Lock Ryder will line-up alongside fellow Glasgow Warrior Tim Swinson in the second-row, Swinson returning to Kingston Park for the first time since joining the RaboDirect PRO12 side in the summer.

The pack is set by a pacy, ball-carrying back-row, with number 8 Wilson (a replacement in the previous Saxons clash) selected to partner McInally and Vernon, who start on the blind and open-side flanks respectively.

Finally the bench features six new faces to Scotland’s national fold, with Newcastle Falcons prop Grant Shiells, Glasgow Warriors’ prop Gordon Reid (an unused replacement in the 2012 EMC Test against Tonga), Edinburgh Rugby trio Robert McAlpine (lock), Dougie Fife (wing) and Alun Walker (hooker), and London Scottish scrum-half Jamie Stevenson, all invited to impress off the bench.

Finally the inclusion of Edinburgh Rugby centre Ben Cairns signals his first involvement in a senior representative side since he earned his seventh cap against Argentina in the 2009 Autumn Tests.

Scotland A team to play England Saxons at Kingston Park, Newcastle
Friday 1 February (kick-off 8pm) – live on SkySports

15 Greig Tonks (Edinburgh Rugby)

14 Duncan Taylor (Saracens)
13 Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors) – 3 caps
12 Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors)
11 Nikki Walker (Worcester Warriors) – 24 caps

10 Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby) – 1 cap
9 Sean Kennedy (Glasgow Warriors)

1 Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks) – 24 caps
2 Steven Lawrie (Edinburgh Rugby)
3 Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 cap
4 Tom Ryder (Glasgow Warriors) – 2 caps
5 Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors)
6 Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby)
7 Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks) – 20 caps
8 Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN

16 Alun Walker (Edinburgh Rugby)
17 Grant Shiells (Newcastle Falcons)
18 Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors)
19 Robert McAlpine (Edinburgh Rugby)
20 James Eddie (Glasgow Warriors)
21 Jamie Stevenson (London Scottish)
22 Ben Cairns (Edinburgh Rugby) – 7 caps
23 Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby)