AFTER giving another five uncapped players the chance to push for international honours as the 2015 World Cup looms, Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson revealed that his successor, Vern Cotter, had been involved in the deliberations and will be in camp for the opening autumn Test.
Johnson named a 41-man squad for a training camp in Glasgow next week ahead of the series featuring Japan, South Africa and Australia.
Back come experienced quintet Ross Ford, Chris Cusiter, John Barclay, Nick de Luca and Max Evans, who were injured or rested during the summer tour, and up step uncapped Glasgow trio Chris Fusaro, Mark Bennett and Jonny Gray. Those selections were widely expected with the newcomers having been among Glasgow’s leading performers this year, but Johnson sprung surprises by naming former England under-20 back row Kieran Low, now 22, and his 27-year-old London Irish teammate Blair Cowan.
Low, who qualifies for Scotland through a Dingwall-born grandfather, came through the London Irish academy and has made 35 appearances for the first team, starring in the opening weeks of this season.
Cowan, whose triathlete mother Joan hails from Dunoon, joined the Exiles from Worcester in the summer and, after overcoming a calf injury, has similarly been on form.
Johnson said: “He [Low] came on our radar six months ago and we kept an eye on him. I watched his game and went down there and met him. He’s a kid in a position that we’re not overly strong, being able to play six and five, I’m keen to have a look at his skill-set and compare him to our other boys. He’s a good, tough and abrasive kid.
“Blair was different. We were looking at him a little longer, but he was playing six and eight, and now he’s playing seven predominantly, and that’s an area of concern. I want to find the versatility of some players by playing six, eight and seven. That gives us an opportunity to explore different opportunities on benches and we have the A programme in the new year.”
So, while Johnson insisted that everyone named was in contention for Test places, their route to honours, and being “tied” to Scotland, may be more likely to come through the A games in the spring. The coach added that Glasgow flanker Tyrone Holmes, while not selected, was also on his radar.
In all, 28 of the squad were with Scotland for the quadrangular tournament in South Africa in the summer.Glasgow contribute 18 players, Edinburgh ten and others 13.
Johnnie Beattie is in, although he is struggling to recover from a torn pectoral muscle, while Evans, Johnson reported, was not badly injured after coming off early in Castres’ game at the weekend.
British and Irish Lions full-back Stuart Hogg is left out to allow him time to recover from the broken scaphoid in his wrist.
Peter Horne, Peter Murchie, Ryan Wilson (all Glasgow) and Steve Lawrie (Edinburgh) are also missing through injury and there are no places for Glasgow caps Dougie Hall and Richie Vernon.
Back row-turned-hooker Stuart McInally has been invited to train with the squad, as has returning flanker Ross Rennie.