Five newcomers in Scotland squad

Tue, 22 Oct 2013 16:18
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Scotland coach Scott Johnson has included five uncapped players in a 41-strong squad for a training camp in Glasgow next week ahead of the November Tests.

Scotland coach Scott Johnson on Tuesday included five uncapped players in a 41-strong squad for a training camp in Glasgow next week ahead of the November Tests.

The quintet are Glasgow Warriors’ Mark Bennett, Jonny Gray and Chris Fusaro and the London Irish back row pair of Kieran Low and Blair Cowan.

All are in contention for Scotland’s matches against Japan (November 9), South Africa (November 17) and Australia (November 23).

Some 28 of the squad toured with Scotland during the quadrangular tournament in South Africa in June, while experienced campaigners who missed out on that trip through injury - including British and Irish Lions Ross Ford and Chris Cusiter and seasoned campaigner John Barclay - return.

The squad comprises 18 Glasgow Warriors players, 13 Exiles and 10 Edinburgh players.

“This squad is about getting the job right for our upcoming Test matches but it’s also about the next 24 months as we build towards Rugby World Cup 2015,” said Johnson.

“During the tour we need and want to expand our playing pool and within that we have to be clear on which of our long-experienced players will make the journey to the World Cup.

“We have to make sure, too, that our young players, who have the ability to play international footy, get the mileage on the clock ahead of the World Cup.”

Turning to the personnel selected, Johnson said: “I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from Mark Bennett and Jonny Gray. They’ve been consistent, which is often a challenge for younger players, and they’ve shown the resolve to get better.”

He described Bennett and Gray, both former Scotland under-20 captains, as “quality athletes” and then explained the choice of 22-year-old Low and 27-year-old Cowan.

“Low is a good, young player who is athletic and big enough to play at lock or blindside and we don’t have many players who can do that.

“One of the lessons from the South African tour, and especially given the attritional nature of the position, is that we must increase our back row depth and compare the skills set of the players there.

“We know Ross Rennie is coming back to fitness and Chris Fusaro is an out and out seven. Cowan is a good, tough, energetic player who can play in every back row position.”

Bennett said: “It’s an honour to be selected for the squad.  What I have to do now is work even harder on my game with Glasgow Warriors and with the Scotland coaches in camp next week to have the chance to play for my country.”

Gray commented: “I feel very privileged to get this chance. I’ve learned a lot at Glasgow Warriors and I’ll be determined to benefit from this experience.”

Cowan qualifies for Scotland through his Dunoon-born mother, Joan, who is a keen triathlete in New Zealand. Low’s eligibility rests with a paternal grandfather, Wilfred Henry Low, who was born in Dingwall.

Of his decision to opt for Scotland, Cowan said: “The Scottish side have always been a strong part of my family, my career really kicked off in Great Britain and Scotland’s always been the country, in my mind, that I wanted to represent.”

Low, who has previously represented England at Under-20 level, told “Committing to Scotland was an easy decision to make. I want to grab the chance to play international rugby.”

Elsewhere in the squad, Nick de Luca and Max Evans, who were both omitted from the June tour, are recalled.

Johnson said: “We gave them time off to have a proper off season and it’s now important for us to see where they are.”

He added: “We’ve chosen a large squad as we want everyone to be clear of our immediate campaign and our journey towards 2015.

“This is the start of our A programme too and Shade Munro, who will coach the A team against England Saxons again when they come to Scotstoun in the New Year, will be at the training camp.”

Scotland squad:

Forwards: John Barclay, John Beattie, Kelly Brown, Blair Cowan, Geoff Cross, David Denton, Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Chris Fusaro, Grant Gilchrist, Ryan Grant, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Rob Harley, Alastair Kellock, Scott Lawson, Kieran Low, Moray Low, Pat MacArthur, Euan Murray, Alasdair Strokosch, Tim Swinson, Jon Welsh.

Backs: Mark Bennett, Chris Cusiter, Nick De Luca, Alex Dunbar, Max Evans, Tom Heathcote, Ruaridh Jackson, Sean Lamont, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Henry Pyrgos, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor, Greig Tonks, Tim Visser, Duncan Weir.

Invited to train with squad: Stuart McInally and Ross Rennie.

Injured: Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne, Peter Murchie, Ryan Wilson and Steve Lawrie