The first cut was the slightest, with just four of Gregor Townsend’s extended training squad for the Rugby World Cup returning to their clubs as 40 go on to the four warm-up matches over the next month.
Townsend trimmed his squad yesterday with three backs and a forward leaving. Nick Grigg, who actually started the last test Scotland played, against England at Twickenham in March, is perhaps the most surprising to be omitted, at least as early as this.
Kyle Steyn, who was one of the two last call-ups for the squad after impressing for Glasgow in the final few weeks, and Henry Pyrgos, always likely to be fourth out of the four scrum-halves initially selected, are being cut as is Newcastle Falcons backrower Gary Graham.
It leaves Townsend with 40 players to examine in live action after nearly two months of on-off training camp. It’s likely that the teams for those four warm-up games – starting in Nice against France next week – have already been pencilled in, pending injuries, and at the end of that process the four were considered to be better off back at pre-season with their clubs.
The considerable potential for injuries means that none of the four should consider themselves entirely out of the picture for Japan, said the head coach.
“I’d like to thank these players for the work-rate and commitment they’ve shown as part of our preparations for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“They’ve been a credit to a very strong group of players, and we wish them all the best in the season ahead.”
He added: “Players are often called up from beyond the 31-man group that travels to a world cup, so I’d encourage these players to keep working as hard on their skills and fitness as they have over the summer, as we may need to call on them in the weeks ahead.”
The omissions do give some clues to Townsend’s thinking prior to pruning the squad still further to the final 31 that will travel to Japan, with the uncapped Rory Hutchison clearly having impressed enough to be preferred to both Steyn, also uncapped, and Grigg, who started three games in the Six Nations.
The omissions also show faith in the two players included despite missing much of last season with injury issues, centre Duncan Taylor and the uncapped New Zealand-born back rower Blade Thomson.
How those players go in the warm-ups – specifically Taylor who hasn’t played for nearly 10 months and has a chronic injury history – will be crucial in determining the final cut.
However Taylor’s upside – he can play either centre position, wing, full-back and is a defensive leader – meant Townsend and the coaches were always going to give him every chance to prove himself.
Revised Scotland squad
Forwards: John Barclay (Edinburgh), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh),
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Allan Dell (London Irish), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Gordon Reid (unattached), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs), Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors), Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks), Blade Thomson (Scarlets), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).
Backs: Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens).