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Scots driven on by World Cup carrot

Stuart Hogg hopes the fear of missing out on a World Cup place will drive Scotland's players onto new heights.

Head coach Vern Cotter has been putting his 46-man training squad through a series of gruelling pre-tournament work out sessions in preparation for the finals in England.

Before they kick-off their campaign against Japan in Gloucester on September 23, the Dark Blues will have spent around three months honing both their skills and fitness reserves.

But for 15 members of the camp there will be only disappointment at the end of that slog, with Cotter due to trim his group down to 31 when he names his final selection on September 2.

Full-back Hogg, though, believes the desperation not to be one of the men left out in the cold is pushing Scotland forward after their RBS 6 Nations whitewash earlier this year.

He told Press Association Sport: "The beauty of our squad is that with the boys working so hard to claim their place, it is improving training and driving everyone on.

"We want team players but guys as individuals are also trying to make sure of their own place, so they are working incredibly hard for their spot.

"Because of that, no-one can feel they are guaranteed a place.

"They are people pushing for a place in ever position. The boys who started the last game of the Six Nations know that probably won't be the team which takes the field against Japan.

"No-one's place is safe."

Cotter's first year in charge has been a roller-coaster ride for the Kiwi.

Expectations were raised after a positive autumn campaign - but the former Clermont Auvergne coach then watched his side crash to five straight defeats during a nightmare Six Nations debut.

He has taken a rustic approach to rebuilding his squad's shattered spirits, however, after flying the squad out to the French Pyrenees for some high-altitude training.

During a week-long stay at an army barracks near Fort Romeu, Cotter even hired French commandos to lead his team up a lung-bursting mountain hike before making them camp out on the summit.

And Glasgow back Hogg believes his unusual training methods will pay off by the time the Scots take on Japan, the United States, South Africa and Samoa in Pool B.

"We're normally renowned for being a really fit side and we just want to keep improving," said the 23-year-old.

"During the Six Nations, we kind of tapered off in the last 20 minutes of each game and maybe that was down to fitness.

"But now we want to get as fit as we possibly can. We're enjoying our time here. We're doing a lot of ball work, so it's not all just about running for the sake of running, which is good.

"We went over to France for a few days and it was incredibly tough - but enjoyable too.

"The boys had a team bonding session when we climbed up a 4k mountain and then slept under the stars for the night.

"It wasn't very enjoyable at the time but we'll look back on it with good memories.

"The coaches obviously wanted us to bond and become really close - but we ended up being a bit closer than they thought because it was absolutely freezing and we had to cuddle in to each other.

"It was a great experience though and along with the other training we've had up at altitude, while it was tough, the boys have worked hard as we each ultimately fight for a place in that final 31-man squad."


From Belfast Telegraph