As expected, almost half of the squad is made up of players from Guinness PRO12 champions Glasgow Warriors, with 12 players from Scotland’s other professional club Edinburgh Rugby and a dozen exiles plying their trade in England, France and Wales.
Hopefully the confidence the players have gained from their successes will filter through into the rest of Scottish rugby. We’ll need that for this campaign.
One of the biggest surprises sees the long-awaited inclusion of experienced Scarlets back-row forward John Barclay, who has been part of two Rugby World Cup campaigns but frozen out of international rugby since the 2013 autumn internationals.
However, there is no room in the elongated squad for the other members of the ‘Killer Bs’ back row as Johnnie Beattie and Kelly Brown miss out.
Newly-qualified South Africa-born Scots Josh Strauss and WP Nel are among eight uncapped players to make the initial cut, as well as Yorkshire-born tighthead prop Mike Cusack, with all three qualifying for the Dark Blues through residency.
Edinburgh’s South Africa-born prop Allan Dell, who qualifies through his Scotland-born grandmother, is also included as is back-row prospect Hugh Blake, who trained with Cotter’s squad during the RBS 6 Nations earlier this year and made his Scotland debut on the HSBC Sevens World Series last month.
Other new faces to make the cut include Edinburgh’s versatile forward Stuart McInally, who has impressed at hooker and flanker this year, with Edinburgh wing Damien Hoyland also impressing on the HSBC Sevens World Series as Scotland achieved their best-ever finish.
Cotter believes that the successes of Scotland’s two professional clubs in reaching domestic and European finals this year, and two players coming from Aviva Premiership-winning Saracens and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw from European Challenge Cup winners Gloucester, will give the squad confidence after an abysmal Six Nations campaign saw the Dark Blues win the wooden spoon.
“The selection process was made easier by some good performances from a number of players, especially in the latter part of the season,” Cotter said.
“Hopefully the confidence the players have gained from their successes will filter through into the rest of Scottish rugby. We’ll need that for this campaign.
“Flexibility and being able to adapt are among our key themes as we move towards the final 31 and the Rugby World Cup. This is not a firmly fixed squad, it’s a living document.
“There are a number of players we’ve spoken to who will be working on things with their clubs and looking for form, and may well feature in our warm-up games as a chance to push for selection.
“We’re working hard to be as cohesive as possible and push the limits of how far we can go.”
Scotland have booked in four warm-up matches before they begin their Rugby World Cup campaign against Japan in Gloucester on Wednesday 23 September.
They begin their match preparations with a trip to Dublin to take on reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Ireland on Saturday 15 August before back-to-back fixtures against Italy in Torino and Edinburgh.
Cotter will then cut his squad down to 31 for the tournament before the end of August, with the final squad travelling to Paris to take on France on Saturday 5 September.
Forwards (25): Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors), John Barclay (Scarlets), Hugh Blake (Glasgow Warriors), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Mike Cusack (Glasgow Warriors), Allan Dell (Edinburgh), David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby), Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), WP Nel (Edinburgh), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons).
Backs (21): Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Cusiter (Sale Sharks), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh), Rory Hughes (Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Wasps), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester Rugby), Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Maitland (London Irish), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Greig Tonks (Edinburgh), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Visser (Harlequins), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors).
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