Stuart McInally will captain Scotland at Rugby World Cup 2019 after head coach Gregor Townsend confirmed his 31-man squad for Japan on Tuesday.
Hooker McInally has become an increasingly influential figure under Townsend and has been selected to wear the armband ahead of John Barclay and Greig Laidlaw.
The 29-year-old, who began his professional career in the back row, first captained his country during a 44-15 defeat of Argentina in Resistencia on 23 June, 2018 and has done so on five subsequent occasions, including the Japan 2019 warm-ups against France and Georgia.
“It was a very proud moment when I was asked to be captain and I’m very pleased to do it,” McInally said.
“I’m very fortunate there are a number of players [in the squad] that have captained the team before. I won’t be short of shoulders to lean on.”
WATCH | Head Coach Gregor Townsend speaks to Scottish Rugby TV about the players who have been named to represent Scotland at Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.https://t.co/DAQPj5qNos— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) September 3, 2019
McInally is one of 18 players who will feature at their first Rugby World Cup in Japan. Barclay, meanwhile, is set to play at a third tournament having represented Scotland at France 2007 and New Zealand 2011.
Townsend whittled down a training squad of 40 players to the 31 named on Tuesday, with Adam Hastings confirmed as Finn Russell’s deputy at fly-half.
The Glasgow Warriors playmaker is set to become the third member of his family to play for Scotland at a Rugby World Cup, following in the footsteps of his father Gavin and uncle Scott.
Another family that will have toasted the announcement are the Hornes with brothers George and Peter – who featured in all five of Scotland’s matches at England 2015 – named by Townsend.
There is also room for New Zealand-born back-row Blade Thomson, who only made his test debut against France in Edinburgh last month and is one of 21 in the squad to have graduated from the World Rugby U20 Championship pathway.
However, there is no room on the flight to Japan for centres Huw Jones and Rory Hutchinson – who scored twice in the win over Georgia last weekend – or forwards Josh Strauss, Matt Fagerson and Magnus Bradbury.
“There were a number of tough calls given the quality of our wider training squad,” Townsend said.
“On the close decisions we’ve looked to select players that have strong defensive attributes and are willing to out-work their opposite number.”
Scotland have played at every Rugby World Cup since the inaugural tournament in Australia and New Zealand in 1987, and the country’s best performance remains the fourth place finish in 1991.
New Zealand 2011 represents the only time that a Scottish team has failed to reach the quarter-finals but a tough challenge awaits Townsend’s squad in Pool A this year.
A crucial opening match against Six Nations rivals Ireland in Yokohama on 22 September is followed by a trip to Kobe City to face Samoa eight days later.
Russia are next up for Scotland at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on 9 October, before Townsend’s men wrap up their pool stage commitments with a game against hosts Japan in Yokohama on 13 October.
Scotland take on fellow Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifiers Georgia in Edinburgh on Friday before departing for Japan.
Townsend said: “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.
“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.”
Scotland Rugby World Cup 2019 squad
Forwards: John Barclay, Simon Berghan, Fraser Brown, Scott Cummings, Allan Dell, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Stuart McInally (captain), WP Nel, Gordon Reid, Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Backs: Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Stuart Hogg, George Horne, Peter Horne, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor.