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Scots just can't ignore Hardie, says Blair

Return: John Hardie is back after alleged cocaine use
Return: John Hardie is back after alleged cocaine use

By Will Jackson

Scotland assistant coach Mike Blair believes it was a straightforward decision to bring John Hardie back into the squad despite serving a ban for alleged cocaine use.

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The Edinburgh flanker was one of 10 players added to Gregor Townsend's squad for the remainder of the NatWest Six Nations yesterday after he was banned for three months earlier in the season, forcing him out of the start of the tournament.

The 29-year-old was banned by both Edinburgh and Scotland in November for "gross misconduct" amid allegations of cocaine use, but made his return to the game in early February and has since started two games to force his way into Townsend's squad.

Richie Gray also returns, along with Fraser Brown, Alex Dunbar, Zander Fagerson and Darryl Marfo following injury, while young Glasgow scrum-half George Horne has been called up for the first time.

Blair admits it would have been "silly" to ignore a player of Hardie's pedigree after his return to action.

"He's a fantastic player," said the skills coach. "He has a good pedigree and a good history playing with Scotland.

"When you have a player like that available it would be silly not to have him on board.

"He's had his time off. He's been helped through all of that and now he can focus on his rugby."

Scotland travel to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin this weekend looking to back up an impressive 25-13 Calcutta Cup win over England last time out before finishing their tournament in Rome a week later.

Belfast Telegraph


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