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Cotter releases seven from squad

Seven Scotland players have been told their World Cup dream is over after head coach Vern Cotter released them from his extended training squad ahead of next month's tournament .

Five Edinburgh players - wings Dougie Fife and Damien Hoyland, prop Allan Dell, lock Ben Toolis and back-row forward Hamish Watson - are no longer required during the World Cup preparations, along with Glasgow wing Rory Hughes and his colleague, prop Mike Cusack.

Cotter's announcement comes prior to next Saturday's third World Cup warm-up fixture, when Italy arrive at Murrayfield. He will reveal his final 31-man World Cup squad on September 1.

Cusack and Hughes both started in the 16-12 victory against Italy in Turin two days ago, while Hoyland and Watson also featured.

Elsewhere, Glasgow hooker Kevin Bryce, who joined the Scotland squad last week as precautionary cover, has also returned to his club.

And Cotter confirmed that back-row forward Josh Strauss is back with Glasgow with a view to gaining more game time before being considered for the final World Cup squad.

The training squad, minus Strauss, will now embark on a four-day camp at the University of St Andrews prior to the Italy return fixture.

"I would like to thank the players for all their hard work throughout what has been a very tough pre-season campaign," Cotter said.

"Their commitment to improving as individuals and to our collective endeavour has been exceptional and has made this a very tough decision.

"They are understandably disappointed to miss out at this stage. However, they have done themselves proud with their performances in training and the two Test matches (against Ireland and Italy).

"The nature of Test rugby is that we may need to call upon any of these players at any given time during our journey to, and through, what will be a very tough Rugby World Cup campaign, so we will continue to monitor their performances at club level very closely."

Meanwhile, Henry Pyrgos hopes he has given Cotter another World Cup selection headache after his back-to-back scoring displays.

The Glasgow scrum-half skippered the Dark Blues against Ireland last week and got himself on the scoresheet in the 28-22 defeat in Dublin.

He then climbed off the bench to put the seal on the Scots' first win of 2015 with a late try against the Azzuri in Turin as they brought a six-game run of defeats to an end.

Both those touchdowns came just weeks after he also scored for his club in their Guinness Pro12 final success over Munster in Belfast.

But Pyrgos knows his recent spree may not be enough to guarantee him action when the World Cup kicks off next month in England.

Cotter is certain to include the Dorest-born half-back when he names the three scrum-halves who will head south.

However, Pyrgos will have to climb over skipper Greig Laidlaw and Edinbugh's Pro12 young player of the year Sam Hidalgo-Clyne in the Scotland pecking order if he is to start when the team get their tournament under way against Japan on September 23.

But the recently-crowned Pro12 champion told Press Association Sport: "I think I've hit form at the right time.

"It's always nice to score for Scotland, it's an amazing feeling and especially when you go on to get the win. It will be one of those moments you look back on when you finish your career.

"I feel like I've had a good year. I had a few unfortunate injuries but I finished the season strongly with Glasgow, playing in a really good team.

"I've had a few opportunities to play with Scotland early in this warm-up series which has been great.

"Hopefully the kind of performances I've put in will only help my chances of playing at the World Cup. I'm desperate to be involved in the big games.

"It means a huge amount to me to play for Scotland but my position is really competitive so I know it will be tough. But I'm building each week and trying to improve on things and hopefully that will put pressure on the coaches to make those decisions."


From Belfast Telegraph