Scotland: Gregor Townsend facing World Cup 'selection headache'

Finn Russell
Finn Russell is part of the 44-man Scotland training squad in St Andrews this week
Rugby World Cup 2019
Country: Japan Dates: 20 Sep - 2 Nov

Gregor Townsend has "a real selection headache" in picking a World Cup squad, says Scotland assistant Danny Wilson.

Injuries to established players allowed the likes of Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Skinner and Darcy Graham to impress in this year's Six Nations.

With the casualty list clearing, head coach Townsend faces tough calls in cutting his 44-man training squad to 31 for the September showpiece in Japan.

"Genuinely there's places up for grabs," Wilson said.

"The bonus of the Six Nations this year is that players got opportunities off the back of injuries, but those players took those opportunities.

"That gives a real selection headache when players come back fit."

Scotland have stepped up preparations for the finals with a training camp in St Andrews. And Wilson, brought in last year to replace forwards coach Dan McFarland, insists the cut-throat battle for places bodes well.

"We're in that nice fluffy time when everyone's getting on really well because there's no selection, but that's around the corner for us," he said.

"I'm seeing a Scotland squad that - touch wood - is all fit and I'm seeing lots of competition for places and an intensity in training.

"In Scotland we need that competition and depth, and the bonus from the Six Nations is that we're developing that."

Under Wilson's predecessor, the Scotland pack was a well-oiled machine, but it has taken the former Dragons, Scarlets and Cardiff Blues set-piece expert time to get his ideas across.

However, the three-month build-up to Scotland's first Pool A clash against Ireland in Yokohama on September 22 has given him ample opportunity to get to the bottom of the problems that blighted Townsend's team as they finished fifth in the Six Nations with just a win and a draw.

"The time makes a huge difference," Wilson added. "Before a Test match you're trying to ram a huge amount in.

"Slowly but surely [I've been putting my stamp on things.] It's been well documented that during the Six Nations we had a different group in terms of the injuries we had.

"Now to have the likes of John Barclay back in the squad, to work with these guys and see a healthy squad, it's been good for me to build relationships and spend more time on the training pitch.

"During the Six Nations we were number one at scrum time on our own ball, but we need to improve on opposition ball a bit because sometimes we were under pressure."

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