Gregor Townsend today named a 42-man training squad in preparation for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan this September.
Former Scotland U18 and U20 centre Rory Hutchinson is rewarded for an impressive season with English Premiership side Northampton Saints, while Blade Thomson (Scarlets) earns a recall, having recently returned to club duty, having missed this season’s Autumn Tests and Guinness Six Nations with a head injury. Saracen’s Duncan Taylor also returns to the squad having been out all season with an injury but his versatility has perhaps been too hard to ignore given the intensity of tournament rugby. There’s also a recall for uncapped Grant Stewart meaning the dream of Ross Ford’s fourth world cup is probably dead.
The biggest omission is Richie Gray who has been pulling up trees for Toulouse in the Top 14 and Europe after his return from injury. However, a further two spaces in the squad remain unfulfilled (one forward and one back) with Townsend keeping the door open for those operating “at the business end of the season” to play their way into the group.
That probably means Matt Scott and Mark Bennett are out of contention for the remaining spot as their season is over. Bennett was injured during the 1872 Cup and Cockerill expressed concern at the time but there has been no further news from Edinburgh or Scotland. Bennett was one of Scotland’s stand out players during the 2015 World Cup, earning himself a nomination for World Breakthrough Player Of The Year, however aside from an Olympic Silver Medal in the Sevens he has struggled for form after a gruelling set of injuries.
Glasgow’s Kyle Steyn is an example of someone who could yet make the wider training squad, which will then be trimmed by 13 men down to 31 for Japan.
Just under half (14) of those named today featured in the 31-man squad that reached the quarter-final of the 2015 tournament in England. John Barclay (2007 and 2011) is the only player competing for a third outing although he missed out in 2015.
There are three uncapped players (Thomson, Hutchinson and Grant Stewart).
Glasgow Warriors contribute the most players to the training squad with 17, while Edinburgh provide 13 and clubs outwith Scotland offer 12.
“We made a conscious decision to keep squad numbers low, which enables us to do more work with those most likely to be on the plane to Japan. We’re really excited to work with this group of players who will now compete hard for a place in the final 31-man group going to the world cup.
There are of course a number of very good players who have missed out – players who have been unlucky with injuries this year or haven’t hit form at the right time – while others are unlucky to lose out on some very close decisions.”Gregor Townsend
The first block of preparations will see the squad divided into smaller skills and strength and conditioning groups to accommodate post-season breaks for those in the knockout stages of domestic or European Cup competition.
Most will then be given three weeks off to update their Instagram accounts and will return from mid-June onwards to intensify pre-season preparations at Oriam, Scotland’s National Sports Performance Centre.
There will be three residential camps in Scotland and a hot weather camp in Portugal, before four home-and-away Summer Test matches against Georgia and France (in Nice) begin in August to complete the squad’s pre-departure preparations.
There is no news yet on whether the squad will be required to kill and skin any small animals this time around.
“We look forward to building closer relationships with each other and improving as a squad during our training camps, while this opportunity to be together for longer means we can add a couple of things to our game to help us get closer to reaching our potential.”
SCOTLAND TRAINING SQUAD
(positional breakdowns are ours, not official)
Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 19 caps
Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) – 13 caps
Allan Dell (Edinburgh) – 22 caps
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps
Willem Nel (Edinburgh) – 29 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Gordon Reid (London Irish) – 34 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 42 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) – 27 caps
George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 5 caps
Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 33 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 51 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) – 5 caps
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) – 18 caps
John Barclay (Edinburgh) – 71 caps; Rugby World Cup 2007 and 2011
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh) – 7 caps
Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons) – 2 caps
Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) – 10 caps
Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks) – 22 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Blade Thomson (Scarlets) – uncapped
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 25 caps
Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 43 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps
Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne) – 71 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 24 caps
Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh) – 27 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Finn Russell (Racing 92) – 44 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 11 caps
Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps
Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons) – 8 caps
Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 41 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints) – uncapped
Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 21 caps
Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps
Duncan Taylor (Saracens) – 21 caps
Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 4 caps
Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 67 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 11 caps
Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 40 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) – 8 caps
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 50 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
(times are local)
Saturday 17 August – France v Scotland; Allianz Stadium (kick-off 9pm)
Saturday 24 August – Scotland v France; BT Murrayfield (kick-off TBC)
Saturday 31 August – Georgia v Scotland; Dinamo Arena (kick-off TBC)
Friday 6 September – Scotland v Georgia; BT Murrayfield Stadium (kick-off TBC)
SCOTLAND RUGBY WORLD CUP 2019 POOL A FIXTURES
(times are local)
Sunday 22 September – Ireland v Scotland; International Stadium, Yokohama (kick-off 4.45pm)
Monday 30 September – Scotland v Samoa; Kobe Misaki Stadium (kick-off 7.15pm)
Wednesday 9 October – Scotland v Russia; Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa (4.15pm)
Sunday 13 October – Japan v Scotland; International Stadium Yokohama (7.45pm)