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Dodson defends Blake call-up

Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson has defended Vern Cotter's decision to include Hugh Blake in his RBS 6 Nations squad.

The former New Zealand Under-20s back-rower only moved to Edinburgh last month and has yet to even feature for the capital club.

The 22-year-old h as been included at the expense of former Dark Blues skipper Kelly Brown and Scarlets flanker John Barclay.

Retired Scotland international Andy Nicol and Peter Wright both criticised the hurried inclusion of Blake, claiming it sent the wrong message to the nation's juniors.

But Dodson insists there are plenty of home-grown youngsters receiving their chance to shine.

The chief exec - who previously described himself as a "pure-bred Englishman" - told Press Association Sport: "I don't think it is sending the wrong message out to our youngsters.

"It might have done had we not capped so many young Scottish players over the last two years.

"Hamish Watson is in the squad, so is Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Ben Toolis. It is not as if we've brought Hugh Blake in and no-one else is getting capped.

"People should also not make the assumption that we have not been tracking Hugh Blake. We've been tracking him for ages.

"We had him watched down in New Zealand making sure the progress is there and Vern believes this boy can bring something to the squad that we don't have.

"He has a special skill set that we don't possess. "

Former newspaper advertising chief Dodson caused a stir three years ago when he set out a list of ambitious targets for the SRU - including a World Cup win in 2015.

He repeated that aim just before last year's Six Nations kicked-off - then watched as the Scots were humbled 20-0 by England and thrashed 51-3 by Wales.

But with this year's championships just a fortnight away and the World Cup in England another eight months down the road, Dodson insists he does not regret setting the bar high.

"I said before our aim is to win the World Cup and I don't walk away from that," said the 53-year-old. "What I mean is that we have got to get this tanker pointing in the right direction. When I first came the expectation was so low, that people did not think we had the wherewithal to win anything.

"They all said we couldn't pay down debt, we couldn't attract top coaches, that we couldn't get our pro teams in a decent place, we couldn't sell the naming rights for the stadium and we will never get blue-chip sponsors.

"Well since I've come in we've got Vern Cotter in as coach, we've got BT to sponsor Murrayfield, we've paid more debt down than we've ever done before.

"So all those things that people thought were impossible we have done.

"We've turned the ship around off the pitch, now we need to do it on it. Our goal should be to win the World Cup. If we win it, then fantastic.

"If we don't, but improve as a nation, then we are moving in the right direction and that was what it was all about."

So bad were Scotland in last year's Six Nations that there were calls from some pundits for the Dark Blues to be kicked out of the tournament - or at least made to pre-qualify.

But following an encouraging autumn Test series in which the Scots pushed the world champion All Blacks close as well as beating Argentina and Tonga, Dodson does not expect to face similar opposition to their involvement.

"There was a lot of hysteria around last year and justifiably people were upset," he said. "But we had the perfect storm of things that went wrong. We had injuries, we had a pitch that for no fault of our own cut up badly and we didn't perform against England, which the Scottish public won't tolerate.

"But things weren't as bad as people portrayed.

"There is always people jumping the anti-Scotland bandwagon down south, especially in a year with an independence vote.

"It was all ill-informed nonsense. It was all a year after France finished bottom of the Six Nations and I didn't see a clamour of people asking them to pre-qualify."

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