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Flanker John Barclay says he can handle another Scotland snub

John Barclay insists he will be able to handle the pain of rejection if he is handed another Scotland snub ahead of the World Cup.

The Scarlets flanker spent 18 months out in the cold as former head coach Scott Johnson and then current boss Vern Cotter overlooked him for a succession of Dark Blues squads.

But he will finally get his chance to prove himself to Kiwi Cotter when he starts his first match for his country since November 2013 on Saturday as the Scots host Italy at Murrayfield.

The former Glasgow forward was given a brief run-out against Ireland in Dublin a fortnight ago but with just five back-rowers to be picked from a list of candidates that also includes Hugh Blake, Blair Cowan, John Hardie, Alasdair Strokosch, Ryan Wilson, Adam Ashe, David Denton and Josh Strauss, Barclay knows it could all come down to how he performs against the Azzurri if he is to book a ticket for England 2015.

However, the 28-year-old also declared he will not lose sleep if he is left out of Cotter's 31-man squad for the tournament

Barclay - who featured in both the 2007 and 2011 finals - said: "After the last Six Nations I thought they would be looking at different players and I wouldn't be part of the World Cup group. But Vern spoke to me and told me to just keep my head down and work away.

"I've been in the game long enough to know how it works. I wasn't playing my rugby in Scotland but I continued to work with the Scarlets coaches and tried to do the best I could.

"Initially it was hard to see the squads coming out and my name not being included but I wasn't playing in Scotland, so I wasn't seeing the Scottish media.

"I have much more of a balance in my life now with my family and although it was hard, it wasn't the be all and end all for me. I did miss playing for Scotland but I opted to focus on things that I can control rather than things I can't.

"If I play well and put my best foot forward and still don't get picked then that's going to be that. If I do play well and I'm picked, then great.

"I'm more pragmatic now, when I was with the training squad ahead of the 2007 World Cup, I was worrying every day about being picked - but now I feel pretty relaxed."

Cotter axed seven players from his training squad earlier this week.

But he will have to cut another nine on Sunday night before lodging his squad with the IRB the following day.

The squad will not be revealed to the public until Tuesday but the former Clermont Auvergne coach will take every minute he has to analyse the comparative strengths of his remaining players.

The Scots registered their first victory of 2015 with last weekend's 16-12 win over Italy in Turin but it will be a far stronger Dark Blues outfit which runs out in Edinburgh after Cotter announced wholesale changes.

Only wing Sean Lamont - who wins his 96th cap - retains his place, with Greig Laidlaw returning as skipper.

But the hours after the Test will see Cotter face up to the toughest choice of his coaching career as he is forced to explain to those he will not be taking south why their World Cup dream is over.

However, he insists sentiment will not be allowed to feature in his decision-making process.

"This will be one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make as a coach," said the 53-year-old. "It has been interesting seeing this group of players come together and they've all worked hard to put themselves forward for selection, so it will be tough.

"They know the situation. I can't take 50 players with me.

"You need to make the decision for what is best for the team. We need to make these decisions with total honesty and we know there will be some very disappointed people.

"I'll be telling these players straight, that will be the worst part of these past two months. I accept they will be disappointed and all I can do is be forthright and honest with them."


From Belfast Telegraph