World Cup training pool named
Townsend: selection shows depth of our squad
Tough calls: Gregor Townsend (pic: SNS Group)
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend today named a 42-man training squad in preparation for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan in September.
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.
Just under half (14) of those named featured in the 31-man squad that reached the quarter-final of the 2015 tournament in England and have been given the chance to surpass their efforts this autumn.
Edinburgh back-row John Barclay (2007 and 2011) is the only player competing for a third outing, while – at the opposite end of the international experience spectrum – there are three uncapped players.
Former Scotland U18 and U20 centre Rory Hutchinson is rewarded for an impressive season with English Premiership side Northampton Saints, while previous squad members Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors) and Blade Thomson (Scarlets) earn a recall.
Guinness PRO14 title-chasing Glasgow Warriors contribute the most players to the training squad with 17, while Edinburgh provide 13 and clubs outwith Scotland offer 12. Two notable absentees were Richie Gray and Duncan Weir.
Townsend said: “Today’s selection is a good indication of the depth and level of competition we currently have in Scotland. 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.”
The first block of Scotland’s 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.
The majority of players will then be given three weeks off and will return from mid-June to intensify pre-season preparations at Oriam, Scotland’s National Sports Performance Centre, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
The pre-season campaign will be punctuated by three residential camps in Scotland and a hot weather camp in Portugal, before four home-and-away summer test matches against Georgia and France begin in August to complete the squad’s pre-departure preparations.
Townsend added: “Our goal is to deliver our best rugby on September 22nd [when Scotland face Ireland in the opening pool round] and throughout the following few weeks, so there will be a big conditioning element driving us towards that.
“We’ve got to be ready to play with energy, huge effort and be fitter than every team we come up against. That will enable us to attack and defend at a high level and put pressure on the opposition.”
John Barclay (Edinburgh), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Allan Dell (Edinburgh), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Gordon Reid (London Irish), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs), Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors), Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks), Blade Thomson (Scarlets), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).
Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens).