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Vern Cotter vows Scotland will have 'real go' at competing for Six Nations title

Published 19/01/2016

Alex Dunbar is back in the Scotland squad
Alex Dunbar is back in the Scotland squad

Vern Cotter has pledged his Scotland side will have a "real go" at backing up their impressive World Cup display by winning the RBS 6 Nations.

The Dark Blues coach made his vow after naming a 35-man squad for the up-coming Championships.

The Scots were humiliated last year by a five-defeat whitewash but bounced back in encouraging fashion as they marched to the quarter-finals at England 2015, only bowing out after a controversial defeat to Australia.

Cotter is making no promises about just how far his team can go this time round - but the New Zealander does insist they will give everything as they prepare for their opener with England at home on February 6.

He said: "I think it's important that we believe that we can compete for the title. The World Cup is behind us now and we want to move forward and get better.

"There were some good things from the World Cup but now it's about taking the next step.

"We weren't totally happy with the World Cup. People said it was good and it was good, it was a great time. Shared experiences are important for teams and we have been through some good times and some tough times.

"But those tough times will give us a harder edge for this Six Nations.

"It will be what it will be but we are going to have a real go. We will see how things pan out."

Cotter has largely based his selection for the Championships on the group who managed victories over Japan, the United States and Samoa during their march to the last eight.

However, the main noticeable absentee is Glasgow flanker Ryan Wilson, who faces a potentially lengthy ban after being cited for allegedly grabbing the testicles of Northampton's scrum-half Lee Dickson last weekend.

His latest brush with disciplinary chiefs comes after he was banned last year by Scottish Rugby chiefs following his part in a chip-shop brawl.

But Cotter - who could also lose lock Tim Swinson after he was also cited for punching Saints' hooker Mickey Haywood - insists his omission was purely based on form.

"We made a decision about Ryan before he was cited," insisted the former Clermont Auvergne coach. "He has been improving but feel that other players are playing better than he is at the moment.

"He will go through a hearing process but could come into contention as the competition goes on.

"I have no idea if he will be available. It seems to me he was reaching for a pair of shorts."

Wilson's slot goes to John Barclay after he was contentiously left out of the World Cup squad, while t he only newcomers are uncapped props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland.

Glasgow tighthead Fagerson - who turns 20 on Wednesday - could become the youngest prop to represent Scotland since 1948.

Edinburgh's Sutherland, 23, won a last-minute call-up ahead of the Scots' World Cup quarter-final defeat at Twickenham but Cotter insists both men are not there merely to make up the numbers.

He said: "We'd like to work with Rory because we feel he has the qualities to become an international player.

"As for Zander, it's tough being a 20-year-old tighthead in this game but I think he has done exceptionally well. Both these players will get exposure at some stage, I'd think.

The young pair are among four changes to Scotland's front-row options originally named for England 2015, with Exeter's Moray Low and Glasgow hooker Pat MacArthur returning to Cotter's group for the first time since the summer of 2014.

Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis will also look to add to his solitary cap, while back-rower Chris Fusaro is included after an 18-month exile.

In the backs, Alex Dunbar hopes to bounce back after the cruciate ligament nightmare he suffered ahead of last year's Calcutta Cup clash with England. Saracens centre Matt Taylor and Wasps fly-half Ruaridh Jackson are also given reprieves after missing out on the World Cup.

Cotter has his injury concerns, though, with prop Jon Welsh, hooker Fraser Brown, lock Grant Gilchrist, scrum-half Henry Pyrgos and centre Richie Vernon - who all featured at England 2015 - currently unavailable.

Mark Bennett is also rated as a doubt despite being included in the initial squad but Cotter said: "Mark's injury seems better than when it was first announced. We were talking six weeks to two months when it was first announced. But he maybe could now be available for the first game, so fingers crossed."

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