Mark Dodson defends Cotter’s Hugh Blake decision

Edinburgh flanker Hugh Blake. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Edinburgh flanker Hugh Blake. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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SCOTTISH Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson has defended coach Vern Cotter’s controversial decision to include Hugh Blake in his RBS Six Nations squad.

The former New Zealand Under-20s back-rower only moved to Edinburgh last month and has yet to even feature for the pro team, instead making a handful of appearances for Melrose.

The 22-year-old was included at the expense of former Scotland skipper Kelly Brown and Scarlets flanker John Barclay, and former internationals Andy Nicol and Peter Wright both criticised the inclusion of Blake, claiming it sent the wrong message to the nation’s juniors.

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But Dodson insists there are plenty of home-grown youngsters receiving their chance.

The chief executive said: “I don’t think it is sending the wrong message out. It might have done had we not capped so many young Scottish players over the last two years. Hamish Watson is in the squad, so is Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Ben Toolis. It is not as if we’ve brought Hugh Blake in and no-one else is getting capped.

“People should also not make the assumption that we have not been tracking Hugh Blake. We’ve been tracking him for ages. We had him watched down in New Zealand making sure the progress is there and Vern believes this boy can bring something to the squad that we don’t have. He has a special skill set that we don’t possess.”

Dodson also insisted the SRU is ready to open the doors of BT Murrayfield to its footballing counterparts if the SFA decides to quit Hampden.

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The Scottish Football Association’s lease on the National Stadium in Glasgow ends in 2020 and chief executive Stewart Regan confirmed last summer he is “exploring all options”.

Now Dodson has offered the use of the 67,000-seater home of Scottish rugby.

Murrayfield staged Celtic’s Champions League qualifiers this season after Parkhead was ruled out during the Commonwealth Games, while Hearts have also hosted big European nights there. Dodson is keen to slash the SRU’s £11 million debt and believes allowing the SFA to play football at Murrayfield could present another handy stream of income.

He said: “We’re open to the idea of football being played here. We haven’t had any official conversations with the SFA but clearly, if there is a desire from them to come and play at Murrayfield, then we would happily listen to proposals.”