Two places in Scotland’s Rugby World Cup 2019 training squad remain up for grabs after head coach Gregor Townsend confirmed the identity of 42 players who will battle for a seat on the plane to Japan.
Townsend has left room for one forward and one back to come into the group following the conclusion of European and domestic commitments this season. It means there is still hope for a number of Scottish players omitted from the initial training squad but who will compete for major honours with their clubs this month.
Scotland suffered an agonising quarter-final loss to Australia at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England, and 14 of that squad were selected on Tuesday.
Back-row John Barclay is the only player named in the training squad to have appeared at more than one Rugby World Cup, having represented his country in 2007 and 2011. He is also the most-capped member of the group, alongside Greig Laidlaw with 71 caps, while Townsend has included three uncapped players: Grant Stewart, Blade Thomson and Rory Hutchinson.
“Today’s selection is a good indication of the depth and level of competition we currently have in Scotland,” Townsend said.
“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 majority of the training squad will assemble at Oriam, Scotland's National Sports Performance Centre, on the outskirts of Edinburgh from the middle of June having been given three weeks off.
Scotland’s work in the capital will be punctuated by three residential camps at home and a warm-weather trip to Portugal.
Townsend will then oversee home-and-away warm-up matches against Georgia and France before he names his final 31-man squad for the tournament in Japan.
Energy and effort
He added: “Our goal is to deliver our best rugby on 22 September [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.
“There are a number of challenges that await us in the tournament, starting with facing some quality teams in our pool as well as adapting to Japan’s unique environment.
"As it’s likely to be hot and humid during the tournament, our warm-weather training camps in Portugal and Nagasaki, as well two test matches in the heat of Nice and Tbilisi, should be invaluable.
“We look forward to building closer relationships with each other and improving as a squad during our training camps, while this opportunity to be together for longer means we can add a couple of things to our game to help us get closer to reaching our potential.”
Scotland training squad:
Forwards: John Barclay, Simon Berghan, Jamie Batti, Magnus Bradbury, Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Gary Graham, Jonny Gray, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Gordon Reid, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Skinner, Grant Stewart, Josh Strauss, Blade Thomson, Ben Toolis, George Turner Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Backs: Darcy Graham, Nick Grigg, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Stuart Hogg, George Horne, Peter Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor.