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Scotland cannot afford summer off as Japan awaits - Vern Cotter

Published 09/05/2016

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has named a 27-man squad for summer tour to Japan
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has named a 27-man squad for summer tour to Japan

Scotland coach Vern Cotter admits he cannot afford to give his top performers the summer off - even if they are drained after 12 months of solid rugby.

The Dark Blues head to Japan next month for a pair of Test clashes with the Brave Blossoms in Tokyo.

But the Kiwi's 27-man squad is almost entirely drawn from the same group of players who have squeezed the World Cup and the RBS 6 Nations into a jam-packed season, having also toiled through their club commitments.

That means the likes of Glasgow full-back Stuart Hogg and the Edinburgh front-row of Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel will take their seats for the flight to the Far East having clocked up a full year of training and games following on from their three-month pre-World Cup camp last summer.

But Cotter confessed he does not have the kind of quality in reserve he would need to give his men a break.

Asked if had considered resting any of his players, the head coach said: "No. We don't have a lot of depth really and this group needs to play more rugby together, to have more Test experience together to become better.

" We have taken the (players' energy levels) into account. We know there has been a fair load put on these players.

"Edinburgh have finished their season so we'll be able to give the front-row a decent break of about two to three weeks before we start preparing for the tour.

"Glasgow we can't do much about but hopefully they go all the way to the Pro12 final and their guys hop on the plane in a very positive mood.

"But having only two games changes things. If it had been three we might have looked at it differently but with it being two, it gives us an ability to have a bit of a rest and shift from there."

The squad named contains what Cotter described as the "core" group who featured at England 2015 and the Six Nations.

But among the notable omissions are centres Mark Bennett and Matt Scott.

Bennett is bidding for a place in Team GB's Olympic sevens squad ahead of the Rio games, while Gloucester-bound Scott could be called in if Alex Dunbar fails to shake off a knee injury.

"It is a great opportunity for him," Cotter said when asked about Bennett's Olympic ambitions. "He wants to do it and we said we won't stand in his way if he does get selected.

"It was his choice. He is very excited about the opportunity to go and do that

"Matt was very close, but he has just come back from injury and hasn't had a lot of game time. We know we can count on Matt and there may be a few more guys that are added to the squad."

Scotland will play the first clash with the Brave Blossoms - their first full-cap international on Japanese soil - at the Toyota Stadium on June 18 before facing the 2019 World Cup hosts for a second time a week later at the Ajinomoto Stadium.

"We are taking this very seriously," Cotter added. "It is about continuity. We had a reasonable Six Nations and this is an opportunity for this group to develop what we are doing and areas where we need to improve.

"We think they will be two very tough games. Japan are probably the most improved team in world rugby and now have players developing in Super Rugby.

"In addition we will only have five days after the flight to prepare for the first Test, so this is a chance for this group to develop under that sort of duress."

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