Two former Scotland Under-20 players Ben Vellacott and Gary Graham are set to be included in Eddie Jones’ 40-man England Six Nations squad on Thursday.
Vellacott qualifies for Scotland through his mother while Graham was born in Stirling and despite the best efforts of Scotland coach Gregor Townsend to change their minds, the duo have snubbed his advances.
“We have had conversations with Ben about how he was in the mix for Scotland but there were other scrum-halves around as well, like Scott Steele and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne,” said Townsend.
“Ben is someone we have talked to a lot over the last couple of seasons and I almost signed him at Glasgow Warriors. He came up for a couple of days but decided to stay at Gloucester.
“We have been in regular communication. We will wait and see what squad England pick in the next couple of days but it looks likely he will be involved with them in the Six Nations.
“If England play him in the Six Nations, that would be him committed to England. It seems they are very keen on him.
“We have continued those conversations with Ben but all the indications are that he will be included in the England squad so, a bit like Gary Graham, he is somebody we won’t consider.’
In the case of 25-year-old flanker Graham, Townsend admitted it was a case of the early bird catching the worm.
“It’s unfortunate for us that England had a squad in the first week of January and chose Gary,” he told the Scotsman. “Gary was a Scotland Under-20 player and he has impressed us since getting into the Newcastle team.
“He has been picked in the England squad and I can understand that he wants to see where that leads.
“He’s available for England on residency and I believe it is a great opportunity for him.
“I watched three of his games before the summer tour (with Jersey) and he played pretty well. I chatted to his dad and said we were looking forward to seeing him at Newcastle.
“He had traits that could allow him to play at a high level, which includes a good work-rate and he is also a very good tackler. It has been a nice surprise to see how well he has taken to pro rugby.
“He only got a first start with Newcastle in November. I remember watching him then and thought he was doing well. With each game, he has got better.
“It’s a credit to him. It shows that players coming through the Scottish system are doing well.
“In the case of both, you can understand that if they are playing in England, they are in their system. Then they are maybe going to be watched more by the England coaches.
“It is, ultimately, a choice the players have to make if they get both those options. They have to commit to one of them.”