Shock as Scotland axe Cowan for RWC

Date published: September 1 2015

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has sprung a surprise by dropping flanker Blair Cowan for the Rugby World Cup.

A regular for Scotland since his debut, Cowan is one of the players to miss out on the final squad of 31.

Relative newcomers John Hardie and Josh Strauss are preferred in the back row.

Greig Laidlaw will captain the side and three of the group – Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and Sean Lamont – are set for their third outing in the competition, while a further three – Richie Gray, Alasdair Strokosch and Richie Vernon – approach a second.

Vernon will be the first player to be selected for Scotland in a Rugby World Cup as both a forward and a back, adding to his 2011 appearance as a number eight.

Cotter said: "We're very pleased to name the 31 and we're confident these players will represent Scotland well in the Rugby World Cup.

"It's been a tough but rewarding two months. We're proud of the effort everyone has put in to this point.

"Getting down to 31 has been a difficult process because all the players have represented themselves well in the opportunities given.

"There are some good players and good people who haven't made it. We obviously feel for them and would like to thank them for all their efforts, however we must now move forward to our last preparation match against France before embarking on our Rugby World Cup campaign.

"We felt the split of 17 forwards and 14 backs gives us the best balance.

"We have two games in four days followed by South Africa and Samoa, so we need to be robust and covered in both forwards and backs, while knowing we have players in the group who can play several positions.

"We'll now concentrate our efforts on this group to fine tune a couple of things in detail.

"There are fine margins in this sport at this level so we have to make sure we have got everything ticked off as best as possible, through our organisation, our work-rate and a raft of other details that we'll work through methodically.

"We know the Rugby World Cup is not far away, and we're very excited about the event, for which we're working very hard to perform, do well and represent the thistle on the world stage.”

Scotland's Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards: Alasdair Dickinson, Ryan Grant, WP Nel, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Fraser Brown, Ross Ford, Stuart McInally, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Tim Swinson, David Denton, Josh Strauss, Ryan Wilson, John Hardie, Alasdair Strokosch

Backs: Greig Laidlaw, Henry Pyrgos, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Finn Russell, Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Peter Horne, Richie Vernon, Stuart Hogg, Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour, Tim Visser