The Scotland centre Matt Scott has urged Vern Cotter's critics to lay off the head coach and insisted the Kiwi has his players' trust.
Scotland are still nearly three weeks away from their World Cup opener with Japan but Cotter is already taking the heat over his controversial squad selection. In-form back-row duo Blair Cowan and John Barclay were both cut from the 31-man party after the former All Blacks youngster John Hardie was drafted in just five weeks after touching down on Scottish soil for the first time.
The inclusion of yet another foreign recruit sparked fury among the likes of former Scotland prop Peter Wright, who called the decision to snub native Scots such as Barclay a “disgrace”.
As well as specialist No 7 Hardie – who qualifies through his Fife-born grandparents – there was also a surprise call-up for Glasgow lock Tim Swinson, even though he missed almost all of the national team’s two-month training camp after ankle surgery.
Yet Scott has leapt to the defence of Cotter after claiming the former Clermont Auvergne coach was the best-placed person to make the tough calls. “Vern is a guy who is a great coach, he’s been in rugby for many years and he works with us every day,” he said. “He goes through training with a fine-tooth comb. He’s got a plan for us going to the World Cup.
“There is going to be disappointed guys and it’s a shame to see a lot of guys leave camp. But we are right behind the way Vern wants us to play. We are right behind his vision for us and if he thinks this 31 players is the right balance then I am completely behind him in that sense.”
Asked if those sniping from the sidelines should refrain from passing judgement until after the World Cup, Scott said: “Yeah. The main thing is that picking a squad is really subjective. When I watch other teams play I sometimes think, ‘Why aren’t they picking him or him?’
“But I’m not there at training with them every day. I’m not seeing them in the gym or how they do in skills and defence sessions. There’s a myriad of things that make up a rugby player and the head coach has all this information at his disposal and makes the best call. He’s not trying to be unfair to anyone, he’s just trying to put his best team on the park to execute his game plan.”
The Scots will round off their preparations for England 2015 with their final warm-up game against France in Paris tonight. Back-to-back wins over Italy have raised spirits in the Scottish camp after they started the year with six straight defeats.
Scott knows they will face a Les Bleus side under pressure to sign off their build-up programme with a resounding home win at the Stade de France. “To bring us back down to earth we have a really tough Test match this week,” he said. “It’s a really tough place to go and we have not won there since 1999, so that has really sharpened our focus.
“[The French media] are expecting France to put in a good result on us. For me it will be a great indicator of where we are in terms of our development and how far we have come over the past couple of months.”Reuse content