Scotland’s Highlanders

Just like their finest whiskys, Scotland has a rich rugby background.  The home of Scottish Rugby, the world famous Murrayfield Stadium, is recognised as one of the most prestigious stadia in
the world and creates an atmosphere like no other.  The first-ever rugby international match on 10 March 1879 took place between the Scots and England, in what has become known known as the Calcutta Cup.  On that day the Highlanders and English had to settle for a draw.  Fast forward to the 21st century and the reality is that the navy jerseys have fallen on hard times.

Since reaching the semi-finals in 1991 where they pushed England all the way, the side has been on a gradual decline.  It is true that they did win the 1999 5 Nations, now 6 Nations, but they have become a side that occupies the lower echelons of the championship log in the last decade.  Nevertheless, Vern Cotter’s crop will be going all out to reach the quarter-finals after missing out in 2011.

In fact, that was the first occasion Scotland had failed to reach the knockout stage ever and they will be out to restore pride in Pool B when they come up against Japan, Samoa, South Africa and the United States of America.   Coach Cotter left Blair Cowan and John Barclay out of his 2015 31-man squad when he unveiled his troops at Edinburgh University’s Old College Quad.  Instead, he selected John Hardie who has played just 57 minutes of international rugby after making his debut in Turin and Josh Strauss, the Glasgow number eight, born in South Africa and former captain of the Lions.

Ruaridh Jackson, Adam Ashe, Greig Tonks, Jim Hamilton and Hugh Blake and Glasgow lock Rob Harley are among the names left out of Cotter’s travelling party.  However, the New Zealand-born wing Sean Maitland and Ryan Grant have shaken off injury troubles to claim their places in the squad.  The Scots open their Rugby World Cup account against the Brave Blossoms at Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester on Wednesday 23 September.

Scotland’s World Cup squad:

Props: Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh, 46 caps), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors, 23 caps), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors, 11 caps),Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby, 2 caps), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons, 6 caps)

Hookers: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors, 9 caps), Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby, 88 caps), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby, 2 caps)

Second row: Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby, 10 caps), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors, 14 caps), Richie Gray (Castres, 45 caps), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors, 12 caps)

Back-row: David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby, 27 caps), John Hardie (Unattached, 1 cap, Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors, 0 caps), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan, 45 caps), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors, 10 caps)

Scrum-halves: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby, 7 caps), Greig Laidlaw (Captain, Gloucester, 40 caps), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors, 16 caps)

Fly-halves: Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors, 10 caps), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors, 19 caps)

Centres: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors, 8 caps), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors, 10 caps), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby, 28 caps), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors, 22 caps)

Wings: Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors, 96 caps), Sean Maitland (London Irish, 15 caps), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors, 17 caps), Tim Visser (Harlequins, 20 caps)

Full-back: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors, 33 caps)

Photo credit: SNS/Scottish Rugby