EDINBURGH RUGBY flier Damien Hoyland has a chance to impress Scotland head coach Vern Cotter after the 21-year-old winger was named in his extended training squad.
Hoyland has been impressing with the Scotland Sevens team of late and has been pinpointed by Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons as a player he expects to break through next season.
Born and raised in the Capital, the former James Gillespie’s High School pupil and Boroughmuir speedster has caught the eye of Cotter and made it into the 46-man pool for training camps at BT Murrayfield, France and the first three of four World Cup warm-up Tests ahead of the tournament which starts in September.
“Damien Hoyland has played well on the sevens circuit,” said Cotter. “He has shown some interesting skills in his one-on-ones and his finishing ability. I’d like to put him into an intensive camp and see how he performs.”
Hoyland is one of 12 Edinburgh players in the squad and makes up an uncapped Capital quartet with versatile forward Stuart McInally and South African-born props Allan Dell and WP Nel, the latter of whom is eligible to play for Scotland under residency rules as of this month. Dell, 23, qualifies courtesy of a Scottish grandmother.
Notable Edinburgh omissions from the pool are winger Dougie Fife – who scored Scotland’s first try in this year’s Six Nations – forward Roddy Grant and Australian-born lock Ben Toolis. Former Edinburgh prop Geoff Cross has also been omitted from the initial squad.
Cotter said: “Geoff has missed out. He’s got things, as has Dougie Fife, to work on to become involved. He’ll be able to prepare with his club and, if we need him, we’ll call.”
Nel, 29, is joined in the squad by fellow South African “project player” Josh Strauss, the Glasgow back-rower who qualifies on residency four days before Scotland’s opening World Cup game against Gloucester on Wednesday September 23.
Cotter said he had no problems with selecting the duo as soon as World Rugby regulations allow.
The 53-year-old New Zealander said: “WP’s children were born here in Scotland. Those guys are playing here, they live here. I have no problems with those players fitting in because there is such a strong culture in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The culture of this country is impressive and they are already affected by it.
“That’s how I see it. I don’t see it in any political form whatsoever. All I see is players who want to pull the jersey on and do their best for the country where they live.”
Edinburgh No.8 David Denton has recovered from the concussion which ruled him out of the last month of the season and takes his place in the squad. However, Cotter said he will be monitored carefully and that there remains concerns that another similar head injury could threaten the player’s career.
Denton hasn’t played since going off early in a PRO12 match against Munster at BT Murrayfield on April 11, less than 12 months after he suffered a similar injury in the final game of the previous season which ruled him out of Scotland’s summer tour.
The Zimbabwe-born 25-year-old has now completed the concussion protocols and is deemed fit, but Cotter admitted the situation was a concern.
“I’m worried for him,” said the Kiwi. “He’s cleared to start training with us and he’ll be followed throughout the prep and pre-season.
“We want to be as careful as we can. He wants to be playing with us. He’s back on track, done everything and he’s ready to go. We know the potential he has, he’s a very good rugby player and we want to put him through the preparation.
“I think it’s fair to him and fair to the team because he offers a lot. We’re firing ahead with everything. It’ll be a robust pre-season.”
Asked if another concussion could lead to Denton having to give up the game, Cotter replied: “It’s something that’s spoken about with every head injury now. We’re talking academically here. David will return to training and, if he gets another knock on his head and requires the same length to recover, there will obviously be some pretty mature decisions made on what happens next. At the moment, he’s fully fit and he’s joining the squad.”
Grant Gilchrist is expected to be back fit this month and, having been named Cotter’s captain ahead of the November Tests before a broken arm ended his season, the 24-year-old Edinburgh lock could yet be Scotland’s leader at the World Cup.
‘We’re lucky to have leaders who have put their hands up,” said Cotter
‘Josh Strauss has. Henry [Pyrgos] did very well and showed good leadership for Glasgow at the weekend.
‘Grant obviously has that – and Greig [Laidlaw] was outstanding against Edinburgh in the European final. He controlled that game.
‘So we’ve got players who can do that. Grant is a leader, Jonny Gray has had captaincy roles. So we have options.
‘There may be two captains.”
Cotter is hopeful that some key players, including Edinburgh centre Matt Scott, will recover in time for the extravaganza in England.
The coach said: “I had a meeting yesterday with medical and Matt Scott is improving.
“Grant Gilchrist will be attacking full contact on the 15th [June], fully fit and on his final process. He’s still not there yet, but fingers crossed we’ll have everybody in August.”
Props: Mike Cusack (Glasgow Warriors, uncapped); Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby, uncapped); Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby, 44 caps); Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors, 22 caps); Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby, uncapped; Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors, 8 caps) Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons, 4 caps).
Hookers: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors, 8 caps); Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby, 85 caps); Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby, uncapped).
Second-rows :Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby, 8 caps) Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors, 13 caps); Richie Gray (Castres, 44 caps); Jim Hamilton (Saracens, 61 caps); Robert Harley (Glasgow Warriors, 15 caps); Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors, 12 caps).
Back-rows: Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors, 5 caps); John Barclay (Scarlets, 43 caps); Hugh Blake (Glasgow Warriors, uncapped) Blair Cowan (London Irish, 11 caps); David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby, 25 caps); Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors, uncapped); Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan, 44 caps); Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors, 9 caps); Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, 1 cap).
Scrum-halves: Chris Cusiter (Sale Sharks, 70 caps); Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby, 5 caps); Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester, 39 caps); Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors, 13 caps).
Stand-offs (3): Ruaridh Jackson (Wasps, 25 caps); Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors, 9 caps); Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors, 18 caps).
Centres: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors, 7 caps); Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors, 14 caps); Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors, 7 caps); Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby, 25 caps); Duncan Taylor (Saracens, 12 caps); Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors, 20 caps).
Back-threes: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors, 32 caps); Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh Rugby, uncapped); Rory Hughes (Glasgow Warriors, uncapped); Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors, 93 caps); Sean Maitland (London Irish, 15 caps); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors, 17 caps); Greig Tonks (Edinburgh Rugby, 4 caps) Tim Visser (Harlequins, 18 caps).