No surprises as Cotter picks Scots squad for Japan tour

Vern Cotter
Vern Cotter
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Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has named a “tight” 27-man squad for this summer’s tour of Japan.

The only major omission from the travelling party which will play two Tests in Tokyo in June is Glasgow centre Mark Bennett, who is bidding for a place in Team GB’s Olympic sevens squad ahead of the Rio games.

The rest of the group is largely made up of the men who featured for Cotter’s side at last year’s World Cup and the RBS 6 Nations.

Scotland will play the first clash with the Brave Blossoms – their first full-cap international on Japanese soil – at the Toyota Stadium on June 18 before facing the 2019 World Cup hosts for a second time a week later at the Ajinomoto Stadium.

And with just a 10-day trip to plan for, Cotter has decided to focus his attention on a smaller group of players – although he has left the door open for others to join up later.

The New Zealander said: “Being a two-match tour, rather than three, allows us to take a smaller squad – a tight group, though opportunities still remain for other players to come in.

“This squad still has a lot of work to do to get better and this is another opportunity to analyse our last game against Ireland and the RBS 6 Nations Championship as a whole, in order to move forward.

“We will be working on becoming smarter in the way that we look to win, with winning, of course, being our focus.

“The first game will be especially tough. We have five days to prepare following our arrival in Japan to face a team one place below us in the world rankings, on home soil.

“You only have to look at the crowd numbers and the passion that the Japanese people have at the Sunwolves [inaugural Japanese Super Rugby team] fixtures at home to know that this will be a real test.”

The tour has the added significance of being in the host country of the next World Cup, with Cotter conscious of the added importance of Test results as the pool draw looms this coming season.

“We are aware of the fact that the world rankings for the Rugby World Cup are ongoing, and that the only way we’ll influence those ranking positively is to win games,” said Cotter.

“Winning is our primary focus, while also developing our leadership group, our experience and becoming better at controlling fixtures by understanding and exploiting the opportunities in the game.”

Full squad:

Forwards: A Dickinson (Edinburgh), WP Nel (Edinburgh), M Low (Exeter Chiefs), R Sutherland (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), S McInally (Edinburgh), F Brown (Glasgow), J Gray (Glasgow), R Gray (Castres), T Swinson (Glasgow), J Barclay (Scarlets), D Denton (Bath), J Hardie (Edinburgh), J Strauss (Glasgow), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow)

Backs: G Laidlaw (Gloucester, capt), H Pyrgos (Glasgow), F Russell (Glasgow), R Jackson (Wasps), A Dunbar (Glasgow), P Horne (Glasgow), D Taylor (Saracens), D Hoyland (Edinburgh), S Maitland (London Irish), T Seymour (Glasgow), T Visser (Harleqiuns), Hogg (Glasgow).