Scotland name side to face Ireland on Saturday

Scotland name side to face Ireland on Saturday

Scotland will hand New Zealand-born flanker Hugh Blake his first cap when the Dark Blues kick-off their World Cup preparations against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Head coach Vern Cotter sparked controversy when he named the 22-year-old in his group for this year’s RBS 6 Nations just weeks after Blake had moved from the land of his birth and before he had even featured for his then club side Edinburgh.

Ireland were victorious when the two sides last met - during the Six Nations in March

Blake, who has now switched to Glasgow, did not make an appearance in the tournament and will instead make his international bow against Joe Schmidt’s team at the Aviva Stadium.

Blake's Warriors team-mate Mike Cusack - the Yorkshire-born prop - could also earn his first international honours if he is called into action off the bench.

Scrum-half Henry Pyrgos will skipper the Scots as they play the first of four preparatory Tests ahead of their Pool B opener with Japan in Gloucester on September 23.

Wasps back Ruaridh Jackson will start in an unfamiliar full-back role while Richie Vernon makes his return to national team fold after a three-year absence - with the former number eight winning his first cap since switching to the centre positions.

Lock Grant Gilchrist – who was set to skipper the team during the Autumn internationals before an arm injury ruled him out for 10 months – is also back in Cotter’s line-up.

The Scots will be determined to avenge the 40-10 defeat they suffered against the Irish last time out in March, but they face a side high on confidence after a 35-21 victory over Wales in Cardiff last week.

Cotter, who must trim his 47-man training squad down to a 31-man group ahead of the tournament in England, said: “It’s been important to get a good look at everyone over the last two months.

“The strength and conditioning team have worked hard to get more power and endurance from our players, while we’ve also focused a lot on basic skill sets.

“The successful application of these elements will enable us to perform the various forms of rugby that we would like to play; dominating collisions and using these skill sets to become better at making and executing decisions.

“These 23 players now have the first chance to stake a claim for the final 31--man squad for the Rugby World Cup, against what we know is quality opposition.”

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