Hugh Blake to make Scotland debut against Ireland
Glasgow Warriors forward to make senior debut despite limited game time in northern hemisphere
New Zealand-born back-row forward Hugh Blake will make his senior Scotland debut in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
The 22-year-old made three appearances for Edinburgh last season but finished the campaign at Glasgow Warriors where he is set to spend the next two seasons after helping them defend their Melrose Sevens title.
These 23 players now have the first chance to stake a claim for the final 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup, against what we know is quality opposition.
The former Otago player, who qualifies for Scotland through his Scotland-born grandparents, was controversially called up to Vern Cotter’s maiden RBS Six Nations squad at the start of the year despite his lack of professional rugby, although his only international action came in May as he scored a try on his debut in the abbreviated form of the game at the Marriott London Sevens.
Lining up at openside this weekend, Blake is the only debutant as the Dark Blues begin a series of four back-to-back matches ahead of next month’s tournament in England.
“It’s been important to get a good look at everyone over the last two months,” Cotter said.
“The strength and conditioning team have worked hard to get more power and endurance from our players, while we’ve also focused a lot on basic skill sets.
“The successful application of these elements will enable us to perform the various forms of rugby that we would like to play; dominating collisions and using these skill sets to become better at making and executing decisions.
“These 23 players now have the first chance to stake a claim for the final 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup, against what we know is quality opposition.”
After missing most of last season with a leg injury, Ruaridh Jackson returns to international action at full-back rather than his customary outside-half position with Edinburgh’s Greig Tonks given a chance to prove his worth.
With Glasgow Warriors star Tommy Seymour suffering a hip problem, veteran wing Sean Lamont lines up on the right wing with Tim Visser on the left.
The midfield sees the expected partnership of Richie Vernon and Peter Horne, who started together when the Warriors won the Guinness PRO12 final against Munster in May.
With Greig Laidlaw rested, Warriors scrum-half Henry Pyrgos lines up alongside Tonks at half-back and skippers the side.
Up front, Warriors loosehead prop Ryan Grant packs down alongside Newcastle Falcons tighthead Jon Welsh and Warriors hooker Fraser Brown.
The engine room sees experienced campaigner Jim Hamilton joined by Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist return to the international side after being cruelly struck down with a broken arm days after he was named Scotland captain last October.
Joining Blake in the back row is London Irish flanker Blair Cowan, who starts at blindside, with Edinburgh’s Dave Denton at number eight.
An exciting bench includes experienced Edinburgh hooker Ross Ford, who was drafted into the match-day squad after his club team-mate Stuart McInally was struck down with an illness.
Scarlets back-row forward John Barclay should make his long-awaited Scotland comeback off the bench, while Warriors tighthead prop Mike Cusack could also make his international debut, while exciting Edinburgh duo Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Matt Scott could inject plenty of creativity.
Ireland: Simon Zebo (Munster); Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Jared Payne (Ulster), Gordon D’Arcy (Unattached), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster); Ian Madigan (Leinster), Isaac Boss (Leinster); Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster, captain).
Replacements: Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Michael Bent (Leinster), Nathan White (Connacht), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster); Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Dave Kearney (Leinster).
Scotland: Ruaridh Jackson (Wasps); Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby); Greig Tonks (Edinburgh Rugby), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors, captain); Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Hugh Blake (Glasgow Warriors), David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby).
Replacements: Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Mike Cusack (Glasgow Warriors), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), John Barclay (Scarlets); Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby).