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Johnson wants squad competition

Scotland head coach Scott Johnson is looking to the long term after continuing to add to his player pool.

Johnson named five uncapped players in his 41-man training squad for a camp in Glasgow next week ahead of the viagogo Autumn Tests against Japan, South Africa and Australia.

London Irish forwards Blair Cowan and Kieran Low were drafted in along with Glasgow's Mark Bennett, Jonny Gray and Chris Fusaro.

Johnson handed out 10 debuts during Scotland's summer tour in South Africa and he wants to ensure no-one rests on their laurels ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

Johnson, who will focus on his director of rugby role when Vern Cotter replaces him as head coach at the end of the season, told Press Association Sport: "We have an arduous year ahead. We have a big tour next year, the Commonwealth Games Sevens, putting a lot of pressure on players.

"So we need a broad base because we are 24 Test matches off the start of the World Cup. We can't be exposed to a massive injury toll.

"I want to make sure there is no divine right to be in this squad or in this team. You have to perform or perish.

"If we get that right, we'll be a pretty competitive Test nation and that's what we're about. My job is to make sure Scotland is competitive for a long time after me."

Two players who were affected by Johnson's widening of his player pool in the summer were backs Max Evans and Nick De Luca, both of whom were rested for the South Africa trip.

Johnson insisted at the time that they were dropped for their own physical benefit but he also warned them that they have to make an impact on their return to the squad.

"It was a deliberate non-selection to take them on tour," he said. "It was for my conscience as well. If they were there and things didn't go well on tour I was more likely to turn to them. I didn't want to do that, I wanted to find out what was in the group.

"They had played a lot of rugby through the summer, Nick not so much last year, but they needed an off-season, they needed to get right and they needed to compete for their spots.

"But I wanted them to come back and say: 'right, let's see where we are now'. Nick played very well at the weekend, I think he has started to turn the corner form-wise and Max showed glimpses as well.

"So it's a good opportunity to have them back in the squad and see where they are and see where they fit. They are fully aware that the depth in their positions has increased and that's not a bad thing."


From Belfast Telegraph