NZ-born Blake called up by Scotland for Six Nations
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — New Zealand-born back-rower Hugh Blake is one of four newcomers in Scotland’s enlarged squad for the Six Nations, barely a month after arriving in the country following his departure from Super Rugby side the Highlanders.
Blake, who qualifies to play for Scotland through his grandparents, has yet to play for Edinburgh since joining in December.
Scrumhalf Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, lock Ben Toolis, and openside flanker Hamish Watson were the other players, also from Edinburgh, to be called up for the first time to a 32-man squad by coach Vern Cotter on Tuesday.
“All these players have worked hard and have shown great ambition to seize this opportunity. That’s the type of player we want in this environment,” said Cotter, who will be coaching in the Six Nations for the first time.
“They have impressed me with their desire to go forward, and reflect the Scottish spirit of attacking and leading, to develop into impressive performers.”
Center Matt Scott returns to the squad after missing the summer and autumn tests because of shoulder and hand injuries, but flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson is out with a knee problem.
The Scots finished fifth in the 2014 Six Nations but are dangerous outsiders this year after improving since Cotter took charge last summer. They beat Argentina and Tonga in November and ran a virtually second-string New Zealand team close.
“Obviously we’ll be facing some very good sides, four of which are above us in the world rankings. However, we have nothing to hide going into this year,” Cotter said.
“The players will want to characterize the traditional traits of the Scottish game; attacking with ferocity, destabilizing the opposition, and trying to play smart.”
Scotland starts away to France on Feb. 7.
Scotland: Forwards: Hugh Blake, Fraser Brown, Blair Cowan, Geoff Cross, David Denton, Alasdair Dickinson, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Ross Ford, Jim Hamilton, Rob Harley, Euan Murray, Gordon Reid, Alasdair Strokosch, Ben Toolis, Hamish Watson, Jon Welsh. Backs: Mark Bennett, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Alex Dunbar, Dougie Fife, Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne, Greig Laidlaw (captain), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour, Greig Tonks, Tim Visser.