Scotland: Mark Bennett out of squad for Japan tour as he eyes Rio 2016

Glasgow Warriors centre Mark Bennett
Coach Vern Cotter said Scotland would not stand in the way of Mark Bennett pursuing his Olympic 'dream'

Centre Mark Bennett has been left out of the Scotland squad for the two-Test series in Japan this summer as he aims for a Team GB place at Rio 2016.

Bennett is being considered for the Sevens team in Brazil in August.

Only three players in coach Vern Cotter's "tight" 27-man squad were not named for the 2016 Six Nations.

Scrum-half Henry Purgos and hooker Fraser Brown were injured, while 22-year-old wing Damien Hoyland, who has one cap, comes in.

Sean Maitland, who dropped out during the Six Nations through injury, has also been chosen for the travelling party.

The inclusion of the London Irish wing along with Edinburgh's Hoyland means there is no place for Glasgow Warriors' Sean Lamont, the 35-year-old with 104 caps who said this year that he had no intention of retiring from international duty.

Edinburgh wing Damien Hoyland
Wing Damien Hoyland has has scored eight tries in 23 outings for Edinburgh

"Damien was involved in the pre-World Cup preparations and has done some very good things," Cotter noted. "He can score points and gets over the try-line, has a good step on him and is hard to tackle.

"There are a few things for him to work on and this is a good opportunity for him to come away with the team and start doing things at a more accurate level, which is what he'll need in the Test arena.

"Sean Lamont has been a great soldier for Scotland and has done really well. He will have a bit of rest at home and it is an opportunity for Damien to come through."

Hooker Brown is preferred to team-mate Pat MacArthur, while four other Glasgow players drop out despite being involved in the Six Nations.

Fly-half Duncan Weir, prop Gordon Reid and back-rowers Adam Ashe and Chris Fusaro also miss out.

With Glasgow's Pyrgos included as the second scrum-half behind captain Greig Laidlaw, Edinburgh's Sam Hidalgo-Clyne has been overlooked.

Also missing are London Irish back-row Blair Cowan, Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis and Gloucester-bound centre Matt Scott, while Glasgow prop Zander Fagerson - who made his debut in the Six Nations - is included in the Under-20s squadexternal-link for next month's World Championship.

Bennett 'excited' about Rio 'dream'

"Matt [Scott] was very close, but he has just come back from injury and hasn't had a lot of game time," Cotter said. "We know we can count on Matt and there are a few more games before the end of the season, so more players may be added to the squad."

With Glasgow centre Alex Dunbar being assessed for a knee injury sustained in Glasgow's Pro 12 defeat at Connacht on Saturday, Cotter said any additions could also include Bennett - who played sevens for Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games - if he is not selected for the GB Sevens team.

"It is a great opportunity for him," Cotter said. "He wants to do it and we said we won't stand in his way, if he does get selected.

"It is a dream of his and if he gets the opportunity, that will be great. It was his choice. He is very excited about it."

Japan 'the most improved team in world rugby'

Cotter said he had not discussed the prospect of Olympic sevens selection with full-back Stuart Hogg, who he said "had made up his mind that he was coming on tour".

Scotland face Asian champions Japan on Saturday 18 June at Toyota Stadium, Toyota City, and on 25 June at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo.

Both matches will be broadcast live by BBC Scotland, with 11:20 BST kick-offs.

Scotland beat Japan 45-10 at last year's World Cup, four days after the Japanese caused one of the biggest upsets in rugby history by beating South Africa 34-32.

"We are expecting two very tough games and are taking it very seriously," Cotter added. "Japan are probably the most improved team in world rugby and have a number of players developing in Super Rugby.

"In addition we will only have five days after the flight to prepare for the first Test, so this is a chance for this group to develop under that sort of duress."

Scotland squad for Japan tour


Props: Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Moray Low (Exeter Chiefs), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh). Hookers: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors); Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby). Locks: Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors). Back-rowers: John Barclay (Scarlets), David Denton (Bath), John Hardie (Edinburgh), Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors); Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).


Full-back: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors). Wings: Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh), Sean Maitland (London Irish), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Visser (Harlequins). Centres: Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens). Fly-halves: Ruaridh Jackson (Wasps), Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors). Scrum-halves: Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors).

Top Stories