Scotland coach Gregor Townsend revealed that players were told a day earlier than initially expected whether they were on the plane to Japan or not.
“I decided on the squad earlier than expected, it was Sunday lunchtime,” he said. “We had settled on the squad and the phone calls began in the afternoon.
“Initially we had spoken to the players about leaving the final decision until Monday and that was due to injuries, scans and things from the weekend. Thankfully we managed to get through Saturday’s game okay so we made the decision earlier.”
One man who was especially delighted to get the positive call was centre Pete Horne as part of one of the most competitive areas of the training squad, which was given extra intensity with the emergence of Northampton’s Rory Hutchinson in the past few weeks.
Horne, pictured below, was one of the 31 who stepped precariously on to a rain-soaked stage, and like the rest thankfully kept his footing, after being introduced by Townsend at yesterday’s public announcement against the backdrop of Linlithgow Palace. “Obviously I was nervous but I am delighted to be involved,” said the 42-times capped Glasgow Warrior.
“[Me and Rory] are very different players. Hutch played really well at the weekend on his first start and I was really chuffed for him and on his first chance he scored a couple of good tries.
“Shug [Huw Jones] has not been as on fire as he has been in the past but we know what he can do from the past. It was just trusting the coaches and they see me as the man for the job.”
Horne threw an interception pass which led to an early French try in what was ultimately a 17-14 win at BT Murrayfield a week past Saturday, but said he never thought he had chucked away his World Cup dream in that instant.
“Nah, a few people ask me about that but I was just raging I had thrown a pass that had been picked off,” said Horne.
“On the way back to the posts I didn’t think of how and if it would affect my chances of going to the World Cup. I didn’t think of the magnitude.
“These things happen. It was a test of my character and I had to shrug it off. When I was a wee guy playing I would make a mistake like that and it would have affected me and my game.
“I would have clammed up a bit but I knew I had to just get on with it. I was pleased at how I went on to play in that France game. We defended well and I am hoping to get another opportunity before Ireland to stake a claim.”
Townsend confirmed that the moment hadn’t had any effect on his thoughts of a player he has worked with for many years both at Glasgow and Scotland.
“In the France game he did very well but he had a pass intercepted,” said the coach.
“You can look at that and say it was an error and that happens or you can say it was really good defence. We had two interception tries in the Six Nations when Finn [Russell] picked off a couple and we look at that as great defence.
“The pleasing thing is that the first game this season he played very well after that and worked his socks off as he always does. He was a really good foil to play with Finn and carried the ball and gave us width. He’s always one of our top two or three hardest workers in training and he does that in games and we are happy with his condition. He’s played a number of games for Scotland when we have done well.”
It was a proud day for the Horne family as the latest torch-bearers of Scotland’s proud history of producing international-class brothers will enter the World Cup stage, as scrum-half and younger brother George also got the nod. “It’s massive. My mum will be buzzing,” said the 24-year-old.
“I’m not sure if family are coming out [to Japan]. We’ll maybe try to sneak them out for a bit but it’s a long way to go. I’ve never been to Japan before so it’s going to be cool.”
Meanwhile, Townsend was asked to assess how he felt Scotland’s chances were shaping up as the tournament, where they face a pool containing Ireland, Samoa, Russia and hosts Japan, edges ever closer. “Success would be playing to our best,” he stated simply.
“Playing to our potential has been our aim from the start. We need to do that against Ireland and keep that going throughout the tournament.
“We know and we’ve seen it as when we play to our best we are a match for any team in the world. How we defended and attacked against the top teams in the world, we have won those games. We have a stronger squad now than we’ve ever had. We’ve never been in a better position over the last few years to play at our best.”
Townsend added: “We really like our squad, it’s a combination of experience and youth. There are a lot of leaders there who have captained Scotland in successful games.
“We have players who lead in certain areas of our game. WP Nel is an experienced player, Jonny Gray, Finn Russell, they are all experienced players.
“We look at the vice captains, John Barclay and Greig Laidlaw and that’s really encouraging for us as coaches to know that we have leaders.
“We have looked at players who will work hard, who’ll take the game to the opposition and who won’t be fazed by any challenge they’ll face out there. We also looked for players with strong defensive attributes. We believe this squad has a much stronger defensive feel to it. The players have to have an all-round game but winning teams are based on strong defences.
“We pride ourselves on strong defence and during the Six Nations we didn’t reach those standards. We play a game which will put teams under pressure because of the defence and ambition of our players. Chris Harris and Duncan Taylor are up there with the best defensive centres in the squad.
“Knowing we have them alongside some really good attacking players gives our group a really good balance.”