Vern Cotter named his final 2015 World Cup squad on Tuesday, choosing the vigour of youth and power over the safety of experience. By Taylor Heyman
The squad has only two players with over 50 caps and four with two caps or less.
That is not to say the team is inexperienced; six of the final 31 men have World Cup experience. For Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and Sean Lamont this will be their third World Cup, for Richie Gray, Alasdair Strokosch and Richie Vernon, their second.
The front row is a mix of old hands and young faces. Alasdair Dickinson and Ross Ford bring experience from two World Cups. Glasgow Warriors team-mates Ryan Grant, Gordon Reid and Fraser Brown are reliable additions and twice-capped, South African-born WP Nel, who qualified on residency rules in June, is also named, along with his Edinburgh team-mate Stuart McInally. Jon Welsh completes the front-row options.
Richie Gray will be a steadying influence in the second row, accompanied by brother Jonny and Grant Gilchrist. Tim Swinson surprisingly pipped his Glasgow team-mate Rob Harley to the last space in the second row, despite being injured until the final warm-up game. After 63 caps, Jim Hamilton lost out to strong competition for lock and announced his retirement from Test rugby yesterday.
Vern Cotter’s choices for the back row have raised eyebrows with the media and supporters. He has ditched Blair Cowan, an ever-present in the last 18 months, for another New Zealander, John Hardie, who has been in Scotland for five weeks and only played 57 minutes of Test rugby. He qualifies to play for Scotland through his grandmother from Fife.
John Barclay is also out, a surprise for some considering his try-scoring performance against Italy last weekend. Instead, Alasdair Strokosch, David Denton and Ryan Wilson join the back row, as well as uncapped Josh Strauss from South Africa, who will become eligible to play for Scotland only 4 days before the first game against Japan. Adam Ashe and Hugh Blake miss out.
Greig Laidlaw was predictably named captain of the World Cup squad, and will be backed up at scrum-half by Henry Pyrgos and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. The fly-halves are Warriors Finn Russell and Duncan Weir.
In the centres, Matt Scott, Mark Bennett and Peter Horne have been selected. Richie Vernon’s switch in position from back-row to centre also appears to have paid off.
Alex Dunbar ran out of time to recover from a long-term knee injury, despite travelling to the USA for specialist surgery, while Grieg Tonks, despite solid performances in the warm-ups, also fails to make it.
Stuart Hogg is the only specialist full-back named, but Stuart Maitland will be able to cover if need be. He will be joined by Sean Lamont, the most capped player in the squad, Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour.
Scotland’s 31-man squad
Props: Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh, 46 caps), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors, 23 caps), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors, 11 caps),Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby, 2 caps), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons, 6 caps)
Hookers: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors, 9 caps), Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby, 88 caps), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby, 2 caps)
Second row: Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby, 10 caps), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors, 14 caps), Richie Gray (Castres, 45 caps), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors, 12 caps)
Back-row: David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby, 27 caps), John Hardie (Unattached, 1 cap, Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors, 0 caps), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan, 45 caps), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors, 10 caps)
Scrum-halves: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby, 7 caps), Greig Laidlaw (Captain, Gloucester, 40 caps), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors, 16 caps)
Fly-halves: Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors, 10 caps), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors, 19 caps)
Centres: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors, 8 caps), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors, 10 caps), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby, 28 caps), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors, 22 caps)
Wings: Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors, 96 caps), Sean Maitland (London Irish, 15 caps), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors, 17 caps), Tim Visser (Harlequins, 20 caps)
Full-back: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors, 33 caps)