Mike Blair defends John Hardie recall

Scotland assistant coach Mike Blair believes it was a straightforward decision to bring John Hardie back into the squad, despite serving a ban for alleged cocaine use.

The Edinburgh flanker was one of 10 players added to Gregor Townsend’s squad for the Six Nations.

The 29-year-old was forced out of the start of the tournament when he was suspended for three months in November by Edinburgh and Scotland, following an investigation into “gross misconduct”, amid allegations of cocaine use.

However, Hardie made his return to the game in early February and has since started two games to force his way into Townsend’s squad.

Richie Gray also returns, along with Fraser Brown, Alex Dunbar, Zander Fagerson and Darryl Marfo, following injury, while young Glasgow scrum-half George Horne has got his first call up.

Blair admits it would have been “silly” to ignore a player of Hardie’s pedigree.

“He’s a fantastic player,” said the skills coach. “He has a good pedigree and a good history playing with Scotland. When you have player like that available it would be silly not to have him on board. He’s had his time off. He’s been helped through that and now he can focus on his rugby.”

Byron McGuigan and Lee Jones also return to the squad after suffering injuries earlier in the tournament and Magnus Bradbury has been re-selected ahead of their final two matches of the campaign against Ireland and Italy.

Scotland head to Dublin looking to back up a big win over England that revitalised their Six Nations hopes, and Blair says the added competition for places is healthy.

“What we’ve found is that players coming in for injured players or experienced players who were unavailable have come in and done a really good job,” said Blair. “It makes for interesting selection meetings.”

Scotland are without a win away from home in the Six Nations, outside of Italy, since beating Ireland in 2010, while they have only won six matches away from home in the entire tournament. Blair, who played in that 2010 win at Croke Park, is at a loss to explain their poor away form.

“You would earn a lot of money if you knew that answer,” he said. “Historically, French teams — club and national — had huge differences between home and away games. Globally, it is a lot more difficult to win away from home. Chris Paterson said that he made a point of looking at the white line and thinking it’s just another pitch.”


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