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Blake's keen to prove his worth

Published 13/08/2015

Scotland coach Vern Cotter will hand Hugh Blake his debut on Saturday
Scotland coach Vern Cotter will hand Hugh Blake his debut on Saturday

New Scotland cap Hugh Blake says he is determined to hush the critics of his Dark Blues call-up and fight his way into Vern Cotter's World Cup squad.

The New Zealand-born flanker will make his Scots debut on Saturday when they kick-off their preparations for next month's tournament against Ireland in Dublin.

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.

Former Scotland and British and Irish Lions prop Peter Wright branded his selection a "slap in the face" to the country's native-born back-rowers.

As events transpired, Blake - who qualifies thanks to his Glasgow-born grandparents - w ent unused during the Championships and will instead make his international bow against Joe Schmidt's team at the Aviva Stadium.

But the former New Zealand Under-20 cap - who has now switched cities after signing a two-year deal with Glasgow - insists he has paid no attention to those criticising his involvement and is only focusing on earning himself a place on Cotter's 31-man squad for the tournament in England.

Asked if he felt Scottish, Blake said: " I do feel but I try and stay away from most of [the controversy]. I know where my roots are from - and they are from Glasgow, Scotland.

"Finally now I have got the chance to show the public I can play rugby. Hopefully after the weekend those negative comments will stop.

"Do I feel any extra pressure? Well i f the team were not as welcoming as they are then it would be a lot tougher.

"I just go out and represent the people I play rugby for. This weekend it's the Scottish public. If I can prove to them [I'm good enough] and make them proud then I'm sure everybody will be happy.

"I found out on Monday that I was in the side. I didn't actually know who else was starting because it all became a bit of a blur.

"I'm just so proud to be getting my chance. International rugby is the pinnacle and I'm just stoked to be involved.

"Vern made it pretty clear when everyone came together that everyone was on par, so we all have an opportunity to play a few games and my chance is this weekend. I'm going to be going as hard as I can.

"It would mean everything to get a place in the World Cup squad. It's what you dream of growing up.

"I know I haven't played much rugby lately but we've had some pretty physical sessions recently. Before that I was a little bit sceptical but we've worked hard and I'm ready to go."

Cotter firmly believes Blake - who has yet to play a single game of 15-a-side rugby for Glasgow and managed just three run-outs during his time at Edinburgh - can boost the Scots.

And he insists while the rules allow it, Scotland must take advantage of quality players wherever they find them.

"I'm not going to get involved in the rules and regulations," said the head coach, who signed a new contract which ties him to Murayfield until 2017 on Wednesday.

" I've never been much good at politics. I'll just stick to my role and I feel if we have a whole group of quality players vying for positions we'll have to improve if they want to get selected.

"If they're available for Scotland, we'll have a look at them."

Scrum-half Henry Pyrgos will skipper the side in Dublin 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 the 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 captain the team during last year's Autumn internationals before an arm injury ruled him out for 10 months - is also back in Cotter's line-up.

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