Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has defended his decision to select South Africa-born pair Josh Strauss and WP Nel in his 46-man squad for a World Cup training camp.
Glasgow No.8 Strauss and Edinburgh prop Nel are not yet eligible to play for Scotland, but both will be available by the time the World Cup gets underway in England in September and Cotter is keen to take a closer look at the duo.
Nel, born in the Northern Cape, is just days away from passing the residency criteria after three years, while Cape Town-born Strauss, who became a Celtic League champion with Glasgow last weekend, will qualify just days before Cotter’s team open their World Cup campaign against Japan on September 23.
The selection of non-native Scots has long proved a contentious issue for Scottish rugby, yet Cotter, desperate to improve a team whose Six Nations campaign featured five successive defeats, is not worried about the new recruits having split loyalties when they face South Africa in their third World Cup Pool B clash on October 3.
“I am happy to see these two players pull on a jersey and play for Scotland because I think they want to and I think they deserve to,” Cotter said on Tuesday.
“Just look at Josh for Glasgow at the weekend. He was outstanding. WP’s children were born in Scotland. When you talk to these players they are very passionate about this being their country. This is where they live now.
“I think they will add value to the team. If it’s going to make this team perform well, that’s a good thing.”
Meanwhile, Scotland flanker John Barclay has been given renewed hope of a return from international exile after being named in the training squad.
Barclay had been missing from the Scotland squad for the last two years despite his impressive form for Welsh region Scarlets.
But Cotter’s decision to take a closer look at the 28-year-old is a boost to his hopes of securing a place at the World Cup.
Mike Cusack is named after a two-year injury lay-off and Glasgow’s Ryan Wilson is included despite his four-month suspension following a court conviction for assault.