John Barclay determined to make the most of his latest Scotland reprieve
John Barclay admits he feared his Scotland career had been killed off for a second time after missing out on last year's World Cup.
The Scarlets flanker confessed last year he had given up hope of ever pulling on a Dark Blue jersey again after spending two years in the international wilderness.
But he was given a surprise inclusion in Vern Cotter's pre-England 2015 training squad and featured in the tournament warm-up clashes with Ireland and Italy.
However, just as his hopes were rising, he was left disappointed again when he was cut from the 31-man squad which travelled south.
Five months on, though, his international prospects have been given another reprieve after being named in the Scots' squad preparing for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations opener with England.
Barclay, 29, said: "It's good to be back even though I'm a bit surprised to be back to be honest.
"I haven't been in much contact with Scotland since the World Cup, there have been a few phone calls and text messages to update on my injuries.
"Having missed out on the World Cup I did think that might be it for me with Scotland. I hadn't been involved for a while before the World Cup.
"But I know Vern is a fair guy so if you are playing well then you generally get picked. I try to be philosophical about things, I just tried to play well for my club but when Vern called me up I was quite surprised, if delighted.
"I didn't even know when the squad was going to be announced but that's just my mindset, I do my own thing and the reality is if you do that well enough then you will get picked. If you don't do well enough then you don't get picked.
"Of course I'm desperate to play for Scotland, the fact I'm philosophical about it doesn't mean I'm not gutted when I'm left out.
"I'm massively motivated to play for Scotland and I believe I have a lot to offer at this level.
"My hopes are very high, I'm not going to be holding anything back."
Barclay admits he did not watch the World Cup quarter-final clash against Australia that saw the Scots come within a controversial penalty award of making the last four.
But he insisted it had nothing to do with his tournament snub.
"I didn't see the quarter-final but I saw a few of the group games," he explained. "Scotland played a good brand of rugby and when they got going they were very good.
"It wasn't difficult not being a part of it. I had my own training to do and games with my club as well as a toddler to run around after so I was kept busy."
The Scots host the Auld Enemy at Murrayfield hoping to kick off their tournament with their first opening-day win in a decade.
And despite his recall, Barclay insists he is still not getting his hopes up of playing a part.
"Past experience has taught me to err on the side of caution," he said. "The more expectation you put on yourself, the more disappointed you are so I'm just delighted to be here.
"You get an idea after the first couple of games exactly where you sit. The first game may be this week but there is a whole tournament ahead."
Meanwhile, the Scots have received a huge boost with the news Mark Bennett has been passed fit to face the English.
Glasgow centre Bennett - nominated for the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year after his thrilling World Cup display - has not featured since injuring his shoulder against Racing 92 earlier this month.
However, Harlequins winger Tim Visser has been ruled out as he recovers from a hamstring tear.
Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor said: "Mark is taking full training today, so he's back in the mix.
"I think he's got a good chance [of playing on Saturday]. A fully fit Mark Bennett is a very good player. He'll have to put his best foot forward today in training, because we haven't finalised the team. I'm sure he will do.
"Tim Visser is a couple of weeks off at this stage, he definitely won't be involved this week but hopefully in the following weeks, whether it's Wales or further down the line in Italy we'll see."