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Exiles pair handed Scotland chance

Scotland head coach Scott Johnson sprung some surprises in his training squad for the viagogo Autumn Tests by including London Irish forwards Blair Cowan and Kieran Low.

The pair were among five uncapped players in a 41-man squad ahead of next month's Murrayfield clashes with Japan, South Africa and Australia with the others all coming from Glasgow - Mark Bennett, Jonny Gray and Chris Fusaro.

Fusaro was denied an RBS 6 Nations debut by a groin injury that kept him out for nine months, while Johnson had previously praised Bennett and Gray for their impact on Glasgow's excellent early-season form.

But he showed he is keen to trawl deeper for new talent by picking the London Irish pair for the four-day camp in Glasgow, which meets on Sunday.

Low is a former England Under-20 international flanker who qualifies for Scotland through his Dingwall-born grandfather.

New Zealand-born back-row forward Cowan qualifies for Scotland through his Dunoon-born mother. The 27-year-old has previously played for Cornish Pirates and Worcester Warriors.

Johnson said: "Kieran Low we brought in because he has something different. He is a big, strong, athletic kid that can play six or five and we don't have many of them. And the beauty of him, he is 22 and is going to grow into a big man. I want competition and I'm keen to explore his skill-set.

"We targeted Blair for a little while and kept having a look at him. I like the fact now he is playing purely as a seven.

"It gives us an opportunity because last year we were a bit exposed. We got a lot of injuries at seven, as most of the countries around the world do, and so we need to know which players can do what."

The Scottish Rugby Union released short statements from the pair.

Low said: "Committing to Scotland was an easy decision to make. I want to grab the chance to play international rugby."

Cowan added: "The Scottish side has always been a strong part of my family, my career really kicked off in Great Britain and Scotland always been the country, in my mind, that I wanted to represent."

Another back-row forward, Fusaro, was chosen ahead of South-Africa born Tyrone Holmes, who was man of the match as Glasgow beat Exeter in the Heineken Cup on Sunday.

Johnson said: "Chris Fusaro's form has been good. He came into our squad late last year and had a couple of injury problems. We are keen to see how he transfers his skills with everyone on board.

"Tyrone had a good game but Chris has probably been the form seven at Glasgow this season and deserved first ride at it. Both are out-and-out sevens and that's why we are interested in Blair because he has played six, seven and eight. We like to find out who can do what and versatility impresses us. He (Holmes) is definitely on our radar but he has to do it regularly."

Gray and Bennett have both done that for Glasgow this season. Second-row forward Gray, 19, joins older brother Richie in the squad and, like 20-year-old centre Bennett, is a former Scotland Under-20 captain.

Johnson said: "The two young boys' form has been wonderful. Jonny Gray has been exemplary for Glasgow and has deserved his place. He is the form lock, you could argue, and for such a young man, it's all credit to him.

"Mark Bennett possesses something. We have kept an eye on him for the last 12-15 months and we like what we see. He has played really well in some games and we are not overly blessed with backs."

There is no place for Scotland Under-20 international Tommy Allan, who was recently named in Italy's training squad.

The Perpignan fly-half, whose uncle John Allan played for Scotland, has a Scottish father and Italian mother and Johnson is still unsure of his intentions after leaving a phone message with the player on Monday.

"We have been keeping an eye on it and it's no secret we made contact with Tommy," the Australian said.

"We heard through other means that he has been selected somewhere else. But that's a decision that lad has to make and live with and we have to move on either way.

"If he wants to come back, phones work both ways."

The pool features 28 players who toured with Scotland in a summer tournament in South Africa, including Johnnie Beattie, who has just returned from a chest injury, while Max Evans and Nick De Luca return after being rested.

Sean Maitland and Richie Gray come back after Lions duty while the likes of Ross Ford, Chris Cusiter, John Barclay and Duncan Weir return after injury.

Glasgow quartet Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne, Peter Murchie and Ryan Wilson are unavailable through injury as is Edinburgh hooker Steve Lawrie.

Edinburgh pair Ross Rennie and Stuart McInally have been invited to train with the squad as they work their way back from injury.

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