Cotter: Newcomers will ‘add value’

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Published: Tuesday 2nd June 2015 by The News Editor

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Scotland head coach Vern Cotter insists the Dark Blues’ latest pair of foreign recruits will not let their adopted nation down.

Glasgow number eight Josh Strauss and Edinburgh prop WP Nel have both been named in the Scots’ 46-man World Cup training camp – despite the fact neither South African is yet eligible to play.

Nel, born in the Northern Cape, is just days away from passing the residency criteria after three years in the capital, while Cape Towner Strauss – who became a Guinness Pro12 champion with Glasgow at the weekend – will qualify just under a week before Cotter’s team kick-off their tournament against Japan on September 23.

The selection of non-native Scots has long proved a contentious issue for Scottish rugby but Cotter is not worried about the Tartan Springboks having split-loyalties before facing their homeland in their third Pool B clash on October 3.

He said: “I am happy to see these two players pull on a jersey and play for Scotland because I think they want to and I think they deserve to.

“Just look at Josh for Glasgow at the weekend. He was outstanding. WP’s children were born in Scotland. When you talk to these players they are very passionate about this being their country. This is where they live now.

“I think they will add value to the team. If it’s going to make this team perform well, that’s a good thing.”

Scotland chief executive Mark Dodson raised eyebrows two years ago when he made a World Cup win the SRU’s number one objective for this year’s finals in England.

But no-one will seriously think Cotter’s team will challenge after this year’s embarrassing RBS 6 Nations campaign ended in five straight defeats.

But the performance of Glasgow as they became the nation’s first ever club side to lift silverware – as they beat Munster to the Pro12 title in Belfast – has raised hopes things may be on the up.

Cotter seems to agree, having named 22 of Gregor Townsend’s Scotstoun team in his pre-World Cup group.

“That experience will be important,” he said. “Winning is important. We said (to) the guys after the Six Nations: ‘Go back to your clubs and win something’ – and they have largely done that.

“So there will be a lot of confidence in this group as we try to develop these young men before the World Cup.

“We know the bar will get raised much higher at international level, especially at a World Cup. But we will let the Glasgow players celebrate for a couple more weeks and when we come together we will look at what we want to achieve and strive towards that.”

Scarlets flanker John Barclay’s hopes of ending his two-year Scotland exile have been given a major boost after he was told to meet up with the rest of the squad at Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility on June 15 before travelling to Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees for a short training camp at the end of the month.

Also called up are uncapped forwards Allan Dell, Mike Cusack and Stuart McInally of Edinburgh as well as Glasgow’s Hugh Blake. Wings Damien Hoyland and Rory Hughes, who are also hoping to make their first international starts, are included too.

And Glasgow back-rower Ryan Wilson will hope to put his four-month suspension behind him following a court conviction for assault.

The likes of Mark Bennett and Sean Maitland have been named in the squad despite injuries currently keeping them out.

Cotter says both are “progressing well”, as is knee-ligament-tear victim Alex Dunbar, although the centre’s recovery will take slightly longer.

And the Kiwi also hopes to have Grant Gilchrist – the Edinburgh lock he was set to name captain before an arm injury cost him his place in the Six Nations squad – back in time for the tournament.

The head coach, who will have to select a 31-man squad for the World Cup before heading south in September, said: “When we start on the 15th Grant will be in ready for full training, so we’re looking forward to getting him back.

“We have got plenty of time to work through who will be captain. We have plenty of options and leaders coming through which is really encouraging.”

Noticeable absentees include former skipper Kelly Bown, number eight Johnnie Beattie and Dougie Fife – the scorer of the Scots’ opening try in this year’s RBS 6 Nations against France.

“The likes of Kelly, Johnnie and Dougie came very close and through injuries, they may still get a chance,” insisted Cotter.

Scotland will play four matches in the build up to the finals, with trips to France and Ireland scheduled from mid-August before home and away clashes with Italy.

Published: Tuesday 2nd June 2015 by The News Editor

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