Townsend names 31-man squad
McInally chosen to lead Scotland into Rugby World Cup battle
Japan-bound: Gregor Townsend and Stuart McInally with the World Cup squad (pic: SNS Group)
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has named Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally as captain of his 31-man squad for the World Cup in Japan.
The squad, announced at Linlithgow Palace, features a split of 17 forwards and 14 backs.
“Stuart has done a really good job in the opportunities he’s had to captain Scotland,” said Townsend.
“He captained Edinburgh last season and is a real lead-by-example player, both in training and in games. He’s a calming influence and is very good at bringing the best out of others.
“We have a number of leaders in our squad and it was great to see them work well together out in Georgia last week.”
Over a third (13) of the group have previous Rugby World Cup experience, with Edinburgh back-row John Barclay the only player preparing for a third campaign (having featured in 2007 and 2011).
The remainder are Glasgow Warriors quintet Fraser Brown, Jonny Gray, Pete Horne, Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson, Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist and Willem Nel, plus Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs), Finn Russell (Racing 92) and Gordon Reid (Ayrshire Bulls), who all featured in 2015.
Barclay is also the most-capped member of the squad with 74 of the group’s total of 902 appearances combined, with Scarlets back-row Blade Thomson operating at the other end of the spectrum, with one Test cap.
Glasgow Warriors contribute the most players (12) to the squad, with Edinburgh close behind with 10, eight coming from exile clubs and Reid representing the Super6 side, whose tournament begins in November this year.
Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham is the youngest member of the squad having turned 22 in June, although there are three other 22-year-olds in the squad – Glasgow Warriors Scott Cummings and Adam Hastings, and Edinburgh back Blair Kinghorn – while Laidlaw is the oldest at 33 years and 326 days (with Nel also 33). The squad has an average age of 27.
“We’re delighted with the squad and believe we’ve picked a group capable of playing our best rugby and doing this consistently throughout the tournament,” added Townsend.
“The players have worked hard to be in the best physical shape of their careers and we know that when they play to their potential they are capable of beating any team in the world.
“There were a number of tough calls given the quality of our wider training squad, and on the close decisions we’ve looked to select players that have strong defensive attributes and are willing to out-work their opposite number.
“Some very good players have missed out on selection this time, but they know they’ll have to keep working hard because, in a world cup, an opportunity can come around very quickly.”
Completing the squad’s forward stable are front-rows Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Allan Dell (London Irish), Zander Fagerson and George Turner (both Glasgow Warriors), and Edinburgh trio Ben Toolis (lock), Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson (back-row).
Joining Pete Horne as the squad’s centre options are his Glasgow Warriors clubmate Sam Johnson and exiles Chris Harris (Gloucester) and Duncan Taylor (Saracens), with Glasgow Warriors scrum-halves George Horne and Ali Price completing the back division.
The Scots kick-off their tournament against Ireland in Yokohama on Sunday, 22 September followed by Samoa in Kobe on 30 September, Russia on 9 October in Shizuoka and Japan in Yokohama on 13 October.
Forwards: John Barclay (Edinburgh), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Allan Dell (London Irish), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart McInally (capt) (Edinburgh), WP Nel (Edinburgh), Gordon Reid (Ayrshire Bulls), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Blade Thomson (Scarlets), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).
Backs: Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Chris Harris (Gloucester), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens).