Rugby World Cup 2015: Scotland select Strauss & omit Cowan

Josh Strauss
Strauss will qualify to play for Scotland a few days before the World Cup opener against Japan
Rugby World Cup
Hosts: England Dates: 18 September-31 October
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Back-row forwards Josh Strauss and John Hardie have been named in Vern Cotter's Scotland squad for the World Cup.

South Africa-born Strauss, 28, qualifies to play for Scotland before the tournament under residency rules.

Hardie, 27, born in New Zealand with Scottish ancestry, also makes the cut having made his debut in August, as does South Africa-born prop WP Nel.

Back-row forwards John Barclay and Blair Cowan do not make the 31-man squad.

Having lost to Ireland and beaten Italy home and away, Scotland complete their pre-tournament series away to France on Saturday.

Scotland open their World Cup Pool B campaign against Japan in Gloucester on 23 September. They then face United States in Leeds before Cotter's side take on South Africa and then Samoa in Newcastle.

John Hardie playing for Scotland against Italy
Hardie (right) made his Scotland debut in the 16-12 win over Italy

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

"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."

Hardie, who is currently without a club after leaving Highlanders, featured in the 16-12 win over Italy in Turin.

David Denton, Ryan Wilson and Alasdair Strokosch are the other back-row forwards in Cotter's selection.

WP Nel, the South Africa-born prop who made his Scotland debut in Italy after becoming eligible earlier this summer, is one of the five props named and Alasdair Dickinson, Ryan Grant, Gordon Reid and Jon Welsh are the others.

WP Nel playing for Scotland against Italy
Nel is one of five props in Cotter's final squad

Hookers Fraser Brown, Ross Ford and Stuart McInally and locks Grant Gilchrist, Jonny and Richie Gray and Tim Swinson complete the forwards selection.

In the backs, wing Sean Maitland is picked despite recent injury problems and the London Irish player can also play at 15, with Stuart Hogg the only out-and-out full-back named in Cotter's squad.

Captain Greig Laidlaw is one of three scrum-halves with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Henry Pyrgos also selected. The fly-halves are Finn Russell and Duncan Weir.

Sean Lamont, Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser are the other wing options for Cotter while Mark Bennett, Peter Horne, Matt Scott and Richie Vernon are the chosen centres.

Last week, Mike Cusack, Allan Dell, Dougie Fife, Damien Hoyland, Rory Hughes, Ben Toolis and Hamish Watson were released from the initial training squad named by Cotter.

But along with Barclay and Cowan, Adam Ashe, Hugh Blake, Chris Cusiter, Alex Dunbar, Jim Hamilton, Rob Harley, Ruaridh Jackson, Duncan Taylor, Greig Tonks do not make the final squad.

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

"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."

Scotland World Cup pool games
Wednesday, 23 September, 14:30 BST: Scotland v Japan, Kingsholm
Sunday, 27 September, 14:30 BST: Scotland v United States, Elland Road
Saturday, 3 October, 16:45 BST: South Africa v Scotland, St James' Park
Saturday, 10 October, 14:30 BST: Samoa v Scotland, St James' Park

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

Scotland squad for World Cup

Forwards (17):

Hookers: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby). Props: Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons). Locks: Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors). Back-rowers: David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby), John Hardie (Unattached), Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).

Backs (14):

Back three: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Maitland (London Irish), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Visser (Harlequins). Centres: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors). Fly-halves: Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors). Scrum-halves: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors).