Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland World Cup Squad Announced

Mark Bennett - pic © Al Ross
Mark Bennett - pic © Al Ross

The SRU had been hyping the squad announcement to levels that really ought to be reserved for The Beatles reforming with all four original members. We were promised glitz and glamour but got a visibly irritated Vern Cotter rushing through the squad sheet and players fidgeting like primary school kids at a Christmas Carol concert.

There had been rumours cirulating that Cotter’s announcement would contain a few surprises and that proved to be the case.

Here’s the 31 man squad that will travel to England:


Al Dickinson (Edinburgh), Ryan Grant (Glasgow), WP Nel (Edinburgh), Gordon Reid (Glasgow), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons)


Fraser Brown (Glasgow), Ross Ford, (Edinburgh), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh)

Second Row

Jonny Gray (Glasgow), Richie Gray (Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Tim Swinson (Glasgow)

Back Row

David Denton (Edinburgh), Josh Strauss (Glasgow), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow), John Hardie (unattached), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan)

Scrum halves

Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester, capt), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh),

Fly halves

Finn Russell (Glasgow), Duncan Weir (Glasgow)


Mark Bennett (Glasgow), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Peter Horne (Glasgow), Richie Vernon (Glasgow)


Sean Lamont (Glasgow), Sean Maitland (London Irish), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow), Tim Visser (Harlequins)

Full back

Stuart Hogg (Glasgow)

Blair Cowan and Rob Harley are the notable exclusions in terms of Vern Cotter’s selections so far during his tenure as Scotland Coach. John Barclay has also failed to make the cut despite his superb performance against Italy.

Cotter has decided against risking Alex Dunbar and so Richie Vernon, quite rightly, earns his place in the squad. He does, however, give Sean Maitland the benefit of the doubt.

Many had written off Alasdair Strokosch’s chances of making the cut but Cotter obviously values his experience and he does offer an option in the second row. Tim Swinson also makes a surprise appearance having dropped out of the squad due to injury only to return having come through Glasgow Warriors recent pre-season friendly against Canada.

The main talking point will be the inclusion of Scotland’s two “project players” and John Hardie. The debate about World Rugby’s eligibility rules will contine to rumble on even if there are changes. I have already explained why I think the current laws are suitable in today’s modern world. The media will now be beating a door to Peter Wright’s door to get a quote about how furious he is and how it’s immoral for these players to be representing Scotland.

Let’s not forget that all three players, especially Hardie, gave up lives elsewhere to come and play in Scotland. Strauss and Nel have embraced life here with open arms. Nel considers his children to be Scottish and Strauss was apparently visibly moved when Cotter told him he was to be named in the World Cup training squad.

Out of the three John Hardie has perhaps the most to lose from coming to play for Scotland. Yes, he had amitions to play for the All Blacks once, but he has given up a  lucrative contract with the Highlanders to come to Scotland with no prospect of a job aside from a short term two month contract with the SRU.

So who do you think is the biggest ommision from the squad?

Who shouldn’t be on the bus?

And how far will this squad of 31 actually get?

35 Responses

  1. I agree. Just look at the All Blacks who cherry pick the best talent from the South Sea Islands to make up their team. The commitment that the new players have shown to come to Scotland is worth rewarding. i just feel sorry for Blair Cowan who has been our best player since he joined the team.

  2. having re-read cotters comments regarding the schedule, the make up of the squad is thus, just to get us out of the group perhaps?

  3. Ryan Wilson and strokosch should not be there. Barclay and Cowan should be going 100%

    1. I think Wilson deserves to be there. He’s been on fire since he came back for Glasgow at the tail end of last season.

      Strokosch…that’s a bit more of a head scratcher.

  4. Wilson, Strokosch and Swinson ahead of Barclay, Cowan and Harley are errors IMO but I haven’t been training intensely with the players of the past 2 months so have to trust Cotter’s judgement. Rest of the squad is pretty much spot on IMO.

    With regards to Dunbar, they’re probably hoping he gets some good minutes with Glasgow in the interim and they can call him up for the quarters in the event of an injury in the backs (if this is allowed)

  5. Very surprised and disappointed not to see Cowan in, particularly as Hardie is the only genuine open side included and we are going to play a fast open game!!!! He was arguably our best player in the Six Nations, strange! I think Swinson is a good call as we need 4 genuine locks. Strokosch is a surprise based on recent selections, however, he is a proper blind side, the other options, Wilson, Denton and Strauss, are No 8’s by choice. No surprises in the backs for me, pity about Dunbar.

  6. Gutted for Barclay, disappointed for Harley BUT all the comments about having versatile players is nonsense to me. You only need versatility if you have injuries. If you have injuries you can call up someone to play as long as it is 48 hrs before kick off. The players that are missing out are all based in Scotland, England and Wales so they can easily be called up immediately.

    Therefore we don’t need versatile players, we need the best ones in each position.

    Hardie a better out and out 7 than any others – have to take BVC’s word for it.

    Swinson a better lock than Harley – yes

    1. The point is that if a replacement is called up the injured player is removed from the squad for the rest of the tournament.

      1. I get that, but in reality our world cup will only work from game to game – we are unlikely to be finalists. So if Hardie is injured we can call up a specialist in Cowan etc. That is my point really, BVC has gone for the best person for their own position, not someone who is OK at a few.

        If we are looking for versatility we have plenty of it – Brown, Vernon and McInally could all fill in in the back row. But we wouldn’t seriously consider that.

        Unfortunately it is the same for Barclay. He is a favourite, he had a great game on Saturday – but he isn’t a bullocking line breaking No8 and he isn’t a fast Terrier No7 – his turnover on Saturday was from his clever positional play.

        Harley isn’t a quick line breaking No6, and the scrum is under pressure when he is in the second row. So he is a great player, but not big enough for second row and not quick or line breakingly bulky for 6.

  7. Only the press will be talking about the “project” players. Everyone else is wondering why BVC is only taking one openside flanker, when we have 3 pretty good ones to choose from.
    Strokosch and Wilson are both good but most of us would agree that Barclay and Cowan are both better (at 7). We have to trust that Hardie is fit enough to play every game, and just about the full 80 each time!

  8. Stroker a better blindside than Harley????

    French D2 v Warriors league winner

    That contract extension for Vern was premature.

    And why is Laidlaw captain? If he’s first choice by the time Samoa comes along I’d be surprised. Never wished for a Scots injury till now…

  9. Re Strauss being vissibly moved when BVC told him about his selection.
    Did you see Strauss in the line up on the steps? He couldnt keep still. He was either massivley pumped or struggling with his emotions….could be both. Cant wait to see him take to the field.

  10. You’re right. Can’t wait to see Strauss lining up at 8.

    Some of BVC’s selection choices are making him seem a bit like Phillipe Saint Andre in my eyes. He also drops some of his best players for enigmatic reasons.
    Mind you, I’ll be shouting for whoever is on the pitch.

  11. Was trawling the net looking for outrage at the BVC selections and discovered the following rant which I found amusing and thought you’d appreciate- copyright by ‘funny exiled scot’ who lives in Edinbru.:-

    I think it’s important at this stage to set out expectations for Cotter. He’s nailed his colours to the mast and picked very much his own squad. This is how I will judge him:

    1. Lose all WC games: catastrophic failure and immediate resignation, along with Scott Johnson. New coach: Joe Schmidt, who is signed to take over from 2021. Interim coach to be announced.

    2. Lose three WC games, beating only one of Japan/Samoa: abject failure, followed by a Panel formed to decide Cotter’s future. The Panel will consist of John Barclay, Blair Cowan and, as an impartial judge, Peter Wright.

    3. Lose two WC games, failing to exit the group: failure. In practice what typically happens is this scenario is that the SRU would commission a review, which would conclude that the IRB rankings suggested that SA and Samoa were better than us, and that they were. Furthermore Scott Johnson and Vern Cotter should have contract extensions, and Dodson included in the next Honours list. Scapegoat options: Blair Cowan’s hair, Jim Hamilton’s tatoos and John Barclay’s Twitter account.

    4. Win 3 from 4 and escape the group: complete vindication. Cotter in the frame to coach the Lions.

    5. Win 4 from 4: SRU to sack Cotter for failing to meet expectations. Hardie takes over as player coach.

  12. Strokosch brought in as potential captain for usa or japan game ? he wont be on against Sa or Samoa and other leaders like gilchrist, laidlaw and prygos may not play except as subs , with Vern thinking of possibly resting alot of 1st choice players for week after.

  13. My fear is the squad being geared up to a massive back row to beat up Samoa and SA back row, neither of which have a real fetcher and sacrificing the link man to the backs. I can foresee Denton, Hardie,and Strauss as the big match back row, I don’t know how much wide ball we’ll see.

  14. Peter Wright will be frothing but you can guarantee more effort and ability from Strauss, Nel and Hardie than he ever put in for Scotland and certainly more than he did when he embarassed himself and Scotland on the Lions tour! Fat, lazy and utterly outclassed. His opinion is as useful as a chocolate fireguard!

  15. He now professes to be an expert at calling scrum penalties from 100 yards away. If it was that easy we wouldn’t have the problems we have at resets.

    I like the guy though, he’s a good pundit. Passionate, got an opinion, really wants scotland to do well.

  16. Firstly, I wish Barclay was picked. But you can kind of see where Cotter has based his decisions:
    1) We were too lightweight and got bossed up front in the 6 Nations, Harley/Cowan are both excellent operators but there is no getting away from the fact that they are significantly smaller than their counterparts at other nations
    2) I think we all agree now that for Samoa/SA the back row will be Strauss/Hardie/Denton combination. But for USA and Japan whose packs are also fairly sizeable having the likes of Stroker and Swinson to rotate in and give those guys a break between matches 1 and 3 will be important, without dropping bulk
    3) Barclay, I can only see his drop as being due to the inability to break the gainline in tight spaces, yes he’s excellent in the loose but he wont crash through players in the same way O’Brien et al will.
    4) Look at the experience in our pack. Dropping Barclay and Cowan, who havent won many Pro trophies for Wilson (Pro12) and Strokosch (Euro Challange Cup and Anglo-Welsh) so you have to take into account winning mentality (Hardie won Super 15 for those that have been living under a rock) (I am aware Denton also hasnt won major honours with Edinburgh, but Barclay was never going to be our first choice 7 ahead of Hardie, Denton is likely to be our first choice 8 with Strauss at 6 or vice versa)
    5) And finally Stroker may be in French Div 2, but he has played at test level for years, you dont just lose that ability because of where your team is playing!

  17. Beggining to think that Stroker might be cannon fodder for a couple of games where we wont have our first team starting. Clear instructions to cause mayhem and work himself to the point of burnout. Likelyhood of injury here would be great warranting an injury callup. He may also be a Captain option for one or two games where he would start and the other choices either on the bench or being kept for other games.

    If this is the case and we progress from the pool stages we will be able to call on the likes of Barclay, Cowan and Harley.

    As has already beed said..”Horses for courses”

  18. No I’ve had time to digest it I’m quite happy with the selection, the fact we have players of Barclay and Cowans calibre left behind is encouraging. Big Vern obviously wants a big back row and Stroker will give it 100% as he always does. I’m still a little miffed about Swinson, I’m guessing he probablt won’t start any games but I would still rather have Hamilton over him. Hamilton is a big boy and seems to shore up the scrum if he comes off the bench, I think he is the best at defending mauls too, hopefully the brothers gray will have learnt about this because they are much better in the loose and not a complete penalty liability.

    Like others a bit confused about weirs selection, doesn’t really seem to fit the game plan but wee duncs a safe pair of hands and can kick well to see out the last 15 or tight matches.

    Bring it on!

  19. One thing I’ve noticed is the (relatively) young age of the squad. Some pundits are bemoaning the lack of experience in the squad, especially World Cup experience. But given that experience is of losing I’m not sure that’s a bad thing!
    Half our squad are under 27 (and all but 4 under 30), meaning that the likes of the Gray brothers, SHC, Russell, Bennett and Scott, Hogg, Mcinally, Denton will most likely still be around in 4 years time. Even Nel and Grant could still be playing as they’ll only be 33!! Obviously we’re not building for the future – this is an exciting squad for this WC – but I think any coach is going to want to take this squad on to 2019.

    1. I think the age of our squad has been a factor in some of our recent results e.g. not getting the tight result against, Wales & France, making an ar$e of it against Italy, getting gubbed by Ireland when they notched up their level. However, taking a look at the two squads in the darkness that followed the latter result offered some hope. Our squad were really significantly younger than the Irish, who I think only had one player on the pitch under 25, most of them are in the late-twenties early thirties bracket (i.e. battle hardened and experienced. In contrast we had Hogg, Fife, Bennett, Scott, Russell, Gray J, Denton, Harley, SHC all younger than 25. It’s a good core of players that will be well battle hardened in 4 or 5 years time; some of them have a fair whack of experience under their belts already. We need another layer coming in behind and another behind that (I think the signs are promising) and in 4 or 5 years we should be aiming to challenge in the way that Ireland are now. In a long-winded way, what I’m trying to say is that the age of our squad I think is a positive. Most of these guys have been on a steep learning curve and what they’re experiencing now will hopefully pay dividends. Obviously I would be delighted if it were sooner, rather than later.

  20. Agree Merlot all the tosh about lack of World Cup experience is a joke – we have under performed abysmally. I have concerns about the back row not the starting three Denton, Strauss and Hardie but we are definitely a 7 short and I am not talking about Barclay. Cowan offers a link with the backs he’s good at that but Blake has huge potential and worth a risk – great mobility and distribution skills. Shame Vern didn’t stick his neck out on this one.

    Strokosch sorry don’t understand it. He is the past and not a great past so I hope only there to do a job in the U.S and Jap matches. Wilson yes no problem.

    And let’s forgot all this conjecture about loose forwards doubling as locks and vice versa – an utter joke in terms of our team. Also Brown as a 7 maybe, Vernon as cover for 8 forget it. McInally? No. If this happens in any of the games then the coaches need shot as they would have completely cocked up selection.

    1. Blake making the final 31 would have been a brave call on Verns part. It would also have had the Barclay fan club frothing.

      1. I’m sure Blake will become a quality player. But he has next to no top level experience and Cotter has obviously gone for gnarled and grizzly players when push has come to shove. At at RWC there is no hiding place and I doubt Cotter was ever considering Blake for a place in the 31. At least Blake will go to Glasgow with 2 months in camp, a debut cap, and the respect of some of his new colleagues. I reckon he’ll come on quickly under GT and we’ll see him back in a Scotland shirt pretty soon. Give him a few seasons of battering himself against Europe’s finest in the ECC and we could have a real test player on our hands.

  21. Actually I’m beginning to see the sense in taking Strokosch. We need “leaders” on the pitch for every game. In the forwards there is only Ford and Gilchrist that have captained sides (that I know of). Obviously Jonny Gray can call the lineouts and Strauss has led Glasgow, but I think all four of these will be playing in the bigger games and so may not be called upon for USA being four days after the opener and only 6 before SA.
    What I’m saying is that if we have to rest these guys against the Eagles with (for example) Welsh, Brown, Reid, RGray, Swinson, Strokosch, Wilson, Denton the pack would have only 165 caps between them (90 of these split between Stroker and Richie). I’m not sure that either Barclay or Cowan, despite being better 7s (or even 6s) could step up to lead the pack in an international.
    Angus – as for Big Jim, I think if there was an injury BVC would be able to persuade him out of retirement for the World Cup. Disappointed that he’s hung up his international boots as I really rated him as an enforcer (and scrummager, lineout target, maul destroyer). Underrated hands as well and over-penalised – it was always easy for a ref to spot him and they all looked for him because of his rep.

    1. Wise words Merlot, even if I am quaffing a Cheeky Bordeaux as I type.
      You have to earn the right to go wide – from the other side of the world I will bet this has been used more than once at training and before games for the new Scotland. To do that you have to have at least parity at the breakdown and yes we are transitioning to a far more physical side. In the breakdown and in defence through Tatsy. You can see this squad starting to hunger and look for the collision when it is required. Well off being the finished article but well advanced from less than 6 months ago. This squad has been trained and selected with that in mind. The people u have named is the leadership group. Dammit I’m getting excited again ?

      Re Big Jim – I would think he would have discussed his retirement with BVC and if I was BVC I would have said can u hang on until after cup just in case we need you. Mind you doing it this way and having him come back in for the final to lay McCaw out totally unseen by officials or cameras certainly appeals to the romantic in me ?

      Chin chin ?

  22. I thought Hidalgo-Clyne has been poor in the national jersey. Wiuld like to have the reassuring presence of Big Jim for games like SA and Samoa. Not sure that Vernon stacks uo well. He is olny fast for a flanker imo. Not for a centre. Glad Lamont is in he’s on form.

    1. Interesting this. It was my thoughts also but Vernon has been backed by some fellow warriors as one of the fastest in the team. I alwaysvfelt that 12 might be a better option for him bt not sure he has the hands for it. It has also been said over the last few days that Willson isnt fast enough. I was a bit taken back by that as it was only a week ago that BVC stated that he thinks Wills8n is the fastest forward they have.

      1. In the training camp the focus has been on fitness and everyone has been setting PBs so they will b as fast as they ever will b and the coaches will know the numbers

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