Scotland head coach Vern Cotter: I had to make really tough decisions

Scotland head coach reveals reasons why experienced players were left out of squad for next month's Viagogo Autumn Tests

Vern Cotter admitted he had to make some difficult decisions ahead of next month’s viagogo autumn Tests.

The Scotland head coach left out a raft of experienced internationals when he named his first squad on Monday, including former captains Al Kellock and Kelly Brown, but conceded there is now plenty of competition for places.

“Kelly, Jim [Hamilton], Peter Horne, Max Evans – really tough decisions,” Cotter said. “We’ve got a lot of good people and players who’ve missed out. It just goes to show the competitions there are for positions now, especially at loose forward.

“We looked at John [Barclay]. We’ve gone for players who’ve been playing well. Chris Fusaro has been playing well, Hamish Watson [who has been invited to train with the squad] has been playing well.

“So it was tough for John as well. We’re aware of what he’s been doing – we’ve been following him, and it was a tough call.

“All we can say to the players that have missed out is that they’re one step away an injury.

“All they can do is prepare themselves as best as possible. If we do get an injury, you never know and when they get the call-up they’ll have to play particularly well and put pressure on to make sure of selection next time.”

The former Clermont Auvergne coach also made a change at captain, opting for Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist rather than Gloucester scrum-half Greig Laidlaw or Edinburgh hooker Ross Ford, who have both captained the national team before, and have again been called up.

The decision to go with the current Edinburgh vice-captain, who led Scotland against Argentina and South Africa on their summer tour, may provide an insight into his starting XV for the opening clash with Argentina at BT Murrayfield Stadium, with neither Laidlaw nor Ford assured of a place.

“I think leaders are born and Grant’s a born leader,” Cotter added. “It wasn’t just lineouts he was very competent at calling, but being a born leader.

“I had Grant with us on the summer tour, and this is how I feel Grant can become captain.”

The Kiwi also played down a bizarre situation that may see some of his team inadvertently selected by Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend, with the Guinness PRO12 club providing 17 players to the 33-man squad, including Duncan Weir and Finn Russell, two of the three outside-halves named in the squad.

“They run a pretty efficient camp [at Glasgow] and they train and have match simulations during their training week,” Cotter said.

“We get a bit of time with the players. We’ll be looking at who we play and how we want to play, and we’ve got some ideas as well.

“I don’t think it necessarily means that if Duncan plays every week that we wouldn’t play Finn or Tom [Heathcote] wouldn’t get a game either, but we’re obviously looking at game time and looking to develop and asking those players to do something a little bit different.

“The most important thing from your nine and 10s is running the game and, although it’s good to be play the game, you can train those types of things on the training paddock as well.”

While a lot of Scottish players will be disappointed not to have been named in the squad, Cotter already has an eye on next year’s Rugby World Cup with a view to developing a squad that are capable of getting Scotland out of a difficult group that features South Africa, Samoa

“We’ve taken a lot of things into account,” he said. “How we want to play as well, what sort of game we want to develop here, the game we’ll take forward, the skillsets we want – we want to develop the skillsets that are existing – and how we’re going to move through to the World Cup.

“We’re looking at these three games and we want to perform well and I know the players will be looking to make the most of these opportunities and if they do, they’ll obviously put a good foot forward for selection during the Six Nations and the following World Cup year.

“These players will get an opportunity to show what they can do and perform on the paddock and I think it’s exciting for Scotland.”

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