Six Nations 2017: Scotland depth 'best I've seen' - Ben Toolis

Ben Toolis won his first cap against Italy at Murrayfield in February 2015
Ben Toolis won his only cap as a replacement against Italy at Murrayfield in February 2015

Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis believes Scotland's squad depth is the best he's seen as he tries to force his way into the match-day 23 for the Six Nations.

The Australian-born second-row, 24, is still waiting to add to his single cap - won against Italy in 2015.

Brothers Jonny and Richie Gray have established a strong partnership, with former captain Grant Gilchrist and Tim Swinson also in the selection mix.

"The second row is quite difficult to crack," Toolis acknowledged.

"Jonny and Richie always play well for Scotland and you've got 'Gilko' [Gilchrist] as well. It's very tough and there are other boys in that position.

"You have to stick your hand up and let them know you're ready to have a shot.

"If I don't get picked I can't really blame myself, I'm happy with the way I'm playing."

Jonny Gray has started 23 of Scotland's last 27 Tests going back to November 2014, with brother Richie alongside him for 20 of them.

Edinburgh co-captain Gilchrist returned to the international fold in November after a series of injuries since the 2015 World Cup, starting against Argentina after a head knock ruled out Richie Gray.

But Glasgow's Tim Swinson - man-of-the-match in their 43-0 European Champions Cup Cup demolition of Leicester last Saturday - and Toolis, who leads the statistics for tackles (73) and line-out takes (44) in this season's European Challenge Cup, have both been pressing their cases.

Scotland's second-row occupants - last 27 Tests since Nov 2014
Jonny Gray230
Richie Gray201
Grant Gilchrist53
Jim Hamilton (now retired)43
Tim Swinson214
Ben Toolis01

"Looking at the squad, from one to 15, there is depth in each position," noted Toolis, who joined Edinburgh in 2013 and qualifies for Scotland via his mother Linda, who is from Carluke in Lanarkshire.

"Each member could start and do a good job. That's probably where Scotland have been lacking in the past. We've always had a pretty good one to 15 but if there's an injury, they may fill the role but not necessarily as well.

"I think it's the best I've seen, personally. Competition is good, it brings the best out of you and the players around you. It can be quite frustrating at times but that's just the way it is."

Toolis may be up against it in the battle for a starting spot, but he insists a spirit of shared information and ambition pervades the Scotland set-up.

"We are a team, there are no selfish players in the squad," he added. "The boys want to help each other out.

"We know what we want to achieve as a squad in the Six Nations. We want to make sure everyone is doing the right thing. If there is an injury we want to make sure they come in and do the job well.

"Jonny Gray's a great bloke. He always wants to help, give feedback and give his opinions or involve people. He's a very impressive player. He must be pushing for a spot on that Lions tour. He's one of the form locks in Europe at the moment."

Scotland's Six Nations fixtures (all GMT)

4 February - Scotland v Ireland (14:25)

12 February - France v Scotland (15:00)

25 February - Scotland v Wales (14:25)

11 March - England v Scotland (16:00)

18 March - Scotland v Italy (12:30)

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