• Five Edinburgh players – Dougie Fife, Damien Hoyland, Allan Dell, Ben Toolis and Hamish Watson have been released
  • Glasgow’s Rory Hughes and Mike Cusack are also surplus to requirements
  • Vern Cotter’s announcement comes prior to next Saturday’s third Rugby World Cup warm-up fixture, when Italy arrive at Murrayfield
  • The coach will reveal his final 31-man World Cup squad on September 1
  • Scotland rugby news: CLICK HERE for all the latest ahead of the World Cup

Rob Robertson For The Scottish Daily Mail

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter always said he would be ruthless when it came to axing players from his World Cup squad.

On Monday, he lived up to that promise as he dispensed with seven of his men, including Glasgow Warriors winger Rory Hughes and Damien Hoyland of Edinburgh, who were told the news the day after they had made their Scotland debuts.

If that was a bitter pill to swallow, it was equally tough for Edinburgh openside Hamish Watson. Of those deemed surplus to requirements, he can perhaps feel the most unfortunate to drop out of the 46-man training squad at this stage. 

Edinburgh's 21-year-old wing Damien Hoyland has been cut from Scotland's extended training squad

Edinburgh’s 21-year-old wing Damien Hoyland has been cut from Scotland’s extended training squad

Glasgow wing Rory Hughes has also been released
Edinburgh flanker Hamish Watson will not be considered for the World Cup

Glasgow wing Rory Hughes (left) has also been released, as has Edinburgh flanker Hamish Watson (right)

During the Six Nations, Watson had pushed Blair Cowan all the way for the No 7 jersey and looked set to make the short trip to England in September.

Since then, however, John Barclay has played his way back into Cotter’s plans. And controversially, kilted Kiwis Hugh Blake, who only arrived in Scotland last Christmas, and his countryman John Hardie, who only joined the squad a month ago, have also pushed ahead of him in the pecking order.

The knock-on effect is that Watson, who played well when he came off the bench against Italy in Turin at the weekend, has had his World Cup dreams ended prematurely. He was sent back to the capital club along with prop forward Allan Dell, second-row Ben Toolis, winger Dougie Fife, and Hoyland, all of whom go into the Edinburgh squad for the friendly against Ulster at the weekend.

Tight-head prop Mike Cusack, who struggled in the scrum against Italy, is the other Warriors player who has been sent back to Scotstoun to prepare for the new season.

‘I’d like to thank the players for all their hard work throughout what has been a very tough pre-season campaign,’ said Cotter. 

‘Their commitment to improving as individuals and to our collective endeavour has been exceptional, and has made this a tough decision.

‘They are understandably disappointed to miss out at this stage, but have done themselves proud with their performances in training and the two Test matches.

‘The nature of Test rugby is that we may need to call upon any of these players at any given time during our journey to and through what will be a very tough Rugby World Cup campaign. We’ll continue to monitor their performances at club level very closely.’

Edinburgh Rugby head coach Alan Solomons said he felt sorry for those who missed out but respected Cotter’s decision.

‘Vern is a first-class coach and every World Cup coach has to make tough decisions ahead of the tournament,’ said Solomons. ‘I am sorry for the players, but for Edinburgh it is good to get them back ahead of the new Pro12 season.

‘It would be inappropriate for me to say anything on individuals, but a lot of them are young boys who will get future opportunities.

‘All five players will come back to a familiar environment and will be desperate to play. For all of them to be involved with Scotland, especially young players such as Damien Hoyland, will help their careers in the long run.’  

Glasgow prop Mike Cusack is not part of Vern Cotter's plans for the World Cup this September

Glasgow prop Mike Cusack is not part of Vern Cotter’s plans for the World Cup this September

Solomons said he was confident that Edinburgh would provide Scotland’s front row during the World Cup and had consigned himself to losing loose-head prop Alasdair Dickinson, hooker Ross Ford and tighthead prop Willem Nel till the end of the tournament.

‘I would be shocked to my boots if the Edinburgh front row isn’t the Scotland front row during the World Cup,’ he said. ‘I thought they were magnificent against Italy and helped Scotland to the win.’

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said he was gutted for both Cusack and Hughes but felt they could leave the Scotland squad with their heads held high. Kevin Bryce, who was never officially part of the World Cup squad but was called into the squad for the match against Italy due to injuries, also returns to Scotstoun.

Townsend also confirmed that Josh Strauss, who is about to qualify for Scotland through residency, would play for his club side against Canada in Nova Scotia at the weekend to give him game time. After that, he would return to train with the Scotland World Cup squad.

‘I was pleased with how Mike and Rory played against Italy,’ said Townsend. ‘We have had positive feedback for both. They played with real commitment and will come back better for the experience of playing and training with the players they did.

‘Both have also returned in great physical shape and can now prepare for the new season. Obviously they would have preferred to play for Scotland, but it is great for us to have them involved again. 

Henry Pyrgos hopes he has given Cotter a World Cup selection headache after back-to-back scoring displays

Henry Pyrgos hopes he has given Cotter a World Cup selection headache after back-to-back scoring displays

Pyrgos will have to climb over skipper Greig Laidlaw and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne in the Scotland pecking order

‘They can certainly leave the Scotland squad with their heads held high as there is an incredible level of competition for places.’

Townsend said he expected to have ‘more than 14 players’ in Scotland’s 31-strong final World Cup squad but felt those left behind were good enough to get the team off to a positive start in the Pro12.

‘We will be without our Scotland players for five, maybe more, games and it is great for them to get to play on the big stage,’ he said. ‘There will be more than 14 of them away but it allows us to work with a new group of players.

‘Remember, we have good strength in depth and it will be tough picking our best team when everybody is back from the World Cup. We have Mike Blair and Grayson Hart at the club and, during the last Six Nations, players such as Fraser Lyle in the centre took their chances along with Zander Fagerson.

‘I don’t want to single out any but there will be more young players who will come through for us during the World Cup.’

The Scotland World Cup squad — minus Strauss — will now convene for a four-day camp at St Andrews University ahead of Saturday’s Test match against Italy at BT Murrayfield (kick-off 3.15pm) — live on BT Sport. 

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts,
or debate this issue live on our message boards.

Who is this week’s top commenter?
Find out now