Scotland squad selections were never a major drama for a long time, such was the lack of depth available to them, but their 2019 World Cup squad had been described as their most fiercely contested selection of the professional era.
Here, RugbyPass chooses an XV of players who didn’t make the final cut on Tuesday when Gregor Townsend named his 31 for Japan.
1. JAMIE BHATTI
The 25-year-old loosehead might have been on the plane were it not for the confidence of Scotland’s management in Simon Berghan’s ability to play on both sides of the scrum. He has only started in two of his 15 Test appearances and one of those was last month’s hammering by an impressive France in Nice.
2. GRANT STEWART
He is one for the future. His only two caps have come off the bench in recent weeks and although he did not look out of place, the greater experience of the other hookers in the squad was understandably the preference.
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3. D’ARCY RAE
Another front row whose inexperience counted against him. His only cap came last February when he appeared off the Six Nations bench against Ireland, but he has been in and around the Townsend set-up for a while and is a player to keep an eye on.
4. RICHIE GRAY
The Toulouse lock’s absence from the training squad caused a number of raised eyebrows, especially once Sam Skinner had to withdraw with an injury. Gray has made it clear that he removed himself from contention to focus on his family after an extended period of injuries.
5. SAM SKINNER
He was very unfortunate to pick up a hamstring injury in the second warm-up match last month against France as his performances and versatility suggested he would be given a ticket to Japan. Named man of the match on his Test debut last November versus Fiji, the Exeter lock’s combination of mobility and physicality had made him an excellent addition to the squad.
'You get the sense Gregor Townsend delights in slinging curveballs and catching onlookers and adversaries alike on the hop’
– @JLyall93 on the difficult task of choosing the @Scotlandteam squad for @rugbyworldcup https://t.co/VkTQJnqjq0
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 4, 2019
6. MAGNUS BRADBURY
He was one of the more surprising omissions from Townsend’s RWC squad even though he hasn’t been capped since the Six Nations draw with England last March. His problem was the emergence of the positionally versatile Blade Thomson, who impressed in training and in his debut last month versus the French in Edinburgh.
7. JOSH STRAUSS
The South African-born back row was selected for Scotland as soon as he became eligible, making his debut from the bench during the 2015 World Cup. Since then, a number of challengers have emerged for his position and he is no longer considered essential.
8. MATT FAGERSON
Fagerson’s performance as a starter against Georgia last Saturday was impressive, adding some physicality to the pack, but he is a victim of Scotland’s increased back row depth and the potential of hookers Stuart McInally and Fraser Brown filling in if an emergency arises in Japan.
BREAKING | Scotland team named to play Georgia at BT Murrayfield this Friday night!
© Wilson to captain for the first time
? Gray, Seymour & Thomson return
? Johnson & Taylor combine
1?? First home Friday night home Test outside of RWC
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) September 4, 2019
9. HENRY PYRGOS
A vice-captain at the 2015 World Cup, he has since slipped down the pecking order as Glasgow’s George Horne and Ali Price are more popular with Townsend and Greig Laidlaw is still hugely important to the team.
10. RORY HUTCHINSON
The Northampton Saints midfielder slots in here. He enjoyed a stellar season in the Premiership, earning him the attention of Townsend who handed him his Test debut in Nice last month. That didn’t go well but he bounced back on subsequent Saturdays and was the scorer of two tries in Georgia last weekend. He is another player for the future.
11. BYRON McGUIGAN
A winger coached by Townsend for a season at Glasgow, his Test career began in 2017 while at Sale and his sevens background helped him fit into Scotland’s attacking style of play. However, a run of three consecutive appearances this year – against Wales, England and France – wasn’t enough to when it came to RWC selection.
'Your hotel team room had two fridges absolutely jam-packed with Steinlager… lads piled into it.’@VictorTait of @Scotlandteam takes @JLyall93 on an amusing trek back to the amateur era of 1987 when the @AllBlacks frightened @rugbyworldcup opposition https://t.co/wEuj8WH18y
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 31, 2019
12. NICK GRIGG
This hard-running, physical centre impressed during the 2019 Six Nations but, as with so many areas of the Scottish squad, there is great depth at centre and he is one of many to miss out.
13. HUW JONES
He seemed like a certainty for RWC when he broke through two years ago, scoring tries for fun and terrifying defences. He picked up 10 tries in his first 14 games and his performance against England in 2018 as Scotland finally regained the Calcutta Cup will live long in the memory. However, defensive weaknesses have since been exposed and his club and country form has nose-dived.
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Scotland expected to make a big call with leaving out boom centre Huw Jones from their Rugby World Cup. #scotlandteam #scotlandrugby #scottishrugby #rwc #rugbyworldcup #rugby #rugbygram
14. KYLE STEYN
Yet another sevens player who has impressed for Scotland in XVs. However, he was dropped early on from the training squad, another victim of Scotland’s growing depth.
15. RUARIDH JACKSON
WATCH: The RugbyPass stadium guide to Yokohama where Scotland will open their World Cup versus Ireland
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