Scotland's Gregor Townsend includes three uncapped players in training squad ahead of World Cup
Last Updated: 07/05/19 4:01pm
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has included the uncapped trio Rory Hutchinson, Grant Stewart and Blade Thomson in his 42-man pre-World Cup training squad.
Northampton Saints centre Hutchinson has had a breakthrough year for the Gallagher Premiership side and will now get the chance to book a seat to this year's finals in Japan.
Scarlets back-rower Thomson was due to make his Scotland bow during last year's autumn Tests but was ruled out through injury and has only recently returned to full fitness, while hooker Stewart has impressed for Glasgow Warriors over the past 12 months.
Townsend is keeping a further two spaces open to allow a number of players - including Richie Gray, Duncan Weir and Alex Dunbar, who have all be overlooked - operating at the business end of the season to play their way into the group.
Fourteen members of the squad featured in the 2015 World Cup, where Scotland reached the quarter-finals, suffering a heartbreaking late defeat to Australia at Twickenham.
Glasgow, who are chasing the Guinness PRO14 title contribute 17 players to the squad, with Edinburgh providing 13 and clubs outside of Scotland 12.
"Today's selection is a good indication of the depth and level of competition we currently have in Scotland," said Townsend.
"We made a conscious decision to keep squad numbers low, which enables us to do more work with those most likely to be on the plane to Japan.
"We're really excited to work with this group of players who will now compete hard for a place in the final 31-man group going to the World Cup.
"There are of course a number of very good players who have missed out - players who have been unlucky with injuries this year or haven't hit form at the right time - while others are unlucky to lose out on some very close decisions."
One notable absentee though is Toulouse forward Richie Gray, although Townsend insists there is still time for the giant lock to force his way into the squad ahead of the World Cup.
Townsend said: "Toulouse are going really well in France, they could play four more games, and Richie has that opportunity, like the other guys in his position, to make sure he's the one we select at the end of the season.
"Experience does count for a lot, form counts for a lot, too. Playing at a level that we know he and other players can perform at - at Test level - is important. And that's what we are looking for from all these players who are still playing in the remaining games."
Others overlooked include Worcester's in-form stand-off Duncan Weir, Newcastle centre Alex Dunbar and his former international midfield partner Matt Scott.
Townsend has lined up a warm-weather camp in Portugal, as well as three short training breaks around Scotland, as part of his team's competition build-up.
They will also take on France and Georgia over four home-and-away Test clashes as they look to ensure their fitness reserves hold up amid the humid conditions set to face them in the Far East.