Townsend Names 42 of 44 Man Rugby World Cup Training Squad
There were many topics covered as Gregor Townsend met with media at the Oriam yesterday morning to discuss his, at present, 42-man World Cup training squad. And so, we’ve got the full run down of some of the most important talking points from the Scotland Head Coach.
Gregor Townsend’s training squad will eventually include 44 players, 42 of whom were named yesterday. (Photo: David Ronney)
Two more players yet to be named.
“It’s an outside back and a forward, likely to be a second-row. We want to leave that until the end of the season, we’re announcing the squad with some big games still to play, players due to play in huge games in their respective leagues, and we want to make that decision having seen these players perform at that level.
“And there are players still in the equation who might not get the opportunity to play because they are out of contention because of injury or selection, and in those two areas we have a lot of quality still to make that final decision.”
The players in contention for the spots.
“Toulouse are going really well in France, they could play four more games, and Richie [Gray] has that opportunity like the other guys in his position to make sure he’s the one we select at the end of the season.”
“Experience does count for a lot, form counts for a lot, too. Playing at a level that we know he and other players can perform – at Test level – is important. And that’s what we are looking for from all these players who are still playing in the remaining games.
“We know with Richie we still want to see more from him. He has the opportunity over the next few weeks to show he can play that level, where the step up to test level will be an easy one.
“Richie is in the mix for that final position alongside other second rows who have been playing really well. Andrew Davidson’s had a great season at Newcastle, they’ve got one game remaining. Scott Cummings and Rob Harley have been playing really well for Glasgow, Tim Swinson was playing really well before his injury and we’re monitoring how he’s getting on.
“Those players are all in the mix for that final position.”
Hutchinson’s recent form, confidence, and ability to cover different positions.
“Spoke to him a few weeks ago just initially, to make contact and tell him we were really happy with his form and if he continued that he could make the RWC training squad. I watched him the last two games, against Newcastle and Worcester at the weekend, and the way he’s playing he’s a strong contender for the final 31. Centre is a very competitive position.
“I made a note before coming of eight centres who have played pro rugby for top clubs in the last couple of weeks, Stafford McDowall, Kyle Styen, Chris Dean, James Johnstone, Matt Scott, Mark Bennett and James Lang, and they’ve missed out. That shows you how highly we think of Rory and he does have a big opportunity these next few weeks.”
Numbers are said to be the reason Duncan Weir misses out.
“He has not fallen out of the picture entirely. He’s obviously not in our squad but partly that is due to the lower number of players we have selected. We’ve selected two stand-offs primary and we know there are other players in our squad who can play at 10. Duncan was very close to the selection. If it had been a bigger squad he’d have been in there.
“Duncan is playing the best rugby probably of his career. It shows that when you get to play regularly you can improve and play with confidence. I was down watching him at the weekend and he’s very close to the squad.
“He has shown he can play an accurate attacking game with a lot of touches on the ball, making good decisions. That’s pleasing for us but with the numbers we chose he is one of many people who have just missed out, not through form but just through the fact we’ve picked a smaller squad.”
The squad will need to train, and get used to playing in, warmer conditions than that which they experience in Edinburgh. (Photo: David Ronney)
Replicating weather conditions and ensuring high player fitness are important to ensuring the squad are fully prepared for the Championship in Japan.
“Obviously, we’ll have a lot of our training here and other parts of Scotland, which might not be the same conditions as Japan, but we have got some warm weather training planned.
“We’re going to Portugal for just over a week, we’ve got two Test matches in very warm conditions in Nice and Tbilisi, and a training camp in Nagasaki which will be very warm and should acclimatise us pretty well during the lead into the Irish game.
“Our game is based on energy, on work-rate, on continually putting pressure on the opposition through speed, and you need to be very fit to play that rugby. We’ve got to be fitter than any team we face in the World Cup and that starts when we get the players in camp in a few weeks’ time.
“These are experienced players. Every pre-season is hard for them, and they know that a pre-season camp going into a World Cup will challenge them more than they would encounter at club level. But it’s something that they relish.
“The way we train and the way we play, we build our fitness through games and players doing extras, and they’re coming in already at a high level.”
Duncan Taylor’s recovery update.
“He continues to get into full training with Saracens. By the end of their season he should be back in full training. He’s training with the team this week, doing non-contact work, which is already a huge positive.
“Players will get a bit of a rest at the end of the season, but Duncan will continue to d his rehab so that when he comes in to us he is ready to train fully. That is a great position as we will see immediately how he is looking and get opportunities to move up to full contact in late July and August.
“We will see how he is doing but we would certainly look to involve him in the first two games.
“He’s someone who is held in high regard with ourselves, the coaching staff and his team-mates but also his club. He hasn’t played that much for Scotland in the past two years but my first connection with him as a coach was on the summer tour two years ago when he was outstanding.
“He played at full-back against Italy and then in the following game against Australia he was superb at centre and moved to the wing in the second half. He played centre in the game against Fiji before coming off injured at half-time.
“So we already know his quality, we’ve seen it close up and he provides the glue for what a backline can do because of the work he does off the ball. It’s so good and his defensive communication is strong, and he’s also a very good attacker.
“If the timing works out really well that he’s back to full fitness then we have a player who we’ve not had for a couple of years who we would hope is in very good form.”
Young and uncapped players given a chance.
“That was another close decision [choosing between Grant Stewart and Jake Kerr]. Only going with four hookers it’s a bit like the decision on Duncan [Weir]. Jake’s been unlucky to miss out. Jake’s played pretty regularly since the Six Nations, mainly off the bench, but he’s contributed well.
“We just feel with Grant’s game he’s made some really big impacts in attack or defence for Glasgow and we can see with the training he’s going to get over the next few months, being in an international camp and environment, the other parts of his game do have improve around the set-piece but we feel that will happen.
“The impact he can make either side of the ball is something we’re excited about.
“During last summer’s tour we introduced a group of players to Test rugby for the first time. During the Six Nations and the November Tests, other players did get their opportunities as well, and someone like Darcy Graham really grabbed theirs.
“Having Grant Stewart, who has been playing regularly for Glasgow and was involved in last year’s summer tour, is just that next step up for him.
“Blade Thomson would have played in November. He was in our squad and was playing really well for Scarlets before he got injured.
“And Rory Hutchinson has been in brilliant form for his club over the last few weeks.
“So these three players are very close to playing at Test level and deserve to be in our squad.”
Townsend’s training squad will convene together in mid-June for the start of their World Cup preparations. The training will include three residential camps throughout Scotland, as well as a weather conditioning camp taking place in Portugal.
This training will be followed by four test matches – two at home, and two away – against France and Georgia in August, with the final 31-man squad departing for Japan at the beginning of September.
Scotland Training Squad
John Barclay (Edinburgh)
Simon Berghan (Edinburgh)
Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors)
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh)
Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors)
Allan Dell (Edinburgh)
Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors)
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors)
Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh)
Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons)
Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors)
Stuart McInally (Edinburgh)
WP Nel (Edinburgh)
Gordon Reid (London Irish)
Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh)
Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs)
Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors)
Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks)
Blade Thomson (Scarlets)
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh)
George Turner (Glasgow Warriors)
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh)
Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors)
Darcy Graham (Edinburgh)
Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors)
Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons)
Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors)
Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors)
George Horne (Glasgow Warriors)
Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors)
Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints)
Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors)
Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors)
Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh)
Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne)
Sean Maitland (Saracens)
Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks)
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors)
Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh)
Finn Russell (Racing 92)
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors)
Duncan Taylor (Saracens)