Vern Cotter unconcerned by backlash over John Hardie's Scotland inclusion
PA Sport
September 1, 2015

Vern Cotter never gave the potential for a public backlash a second thought as he handed New Zealand-born John Hardie a controversial World Cup call-up.

The former Highlanders flanker has won a place in the 31-man Dark Blues squad for next month's tournament in England just five weeks after touching down on Scottish soil for the first time.

The 27-year-old - currently without a club - was tipped for an All Blacks slot but, when it became clear that would not happen in time for this year's showpiece, he switched allegiances to Scotland, for whom he qualifies through his Fife-born grandmother.

But Cotter's decision to include him over the likes of on-form Scarlets forward John Barclay has already sparked a storm of protest, with former British and Irish Lions prop Peter Wright claiming the snub to Scotland's home-grown talent is a "disgrace".

However, the head coach said he never let the debate over national identity enter his thinking as he picked his group.

Cotter, whose side will face Japan in their Pool B opener in Gloucester on September 23, said: "We looked really at performance and what players could bring to the mix. That's how we looked at it - purely on what we thought we could get on the paddock."

He added: "We had a number of choices and it was just a matter of getting the right mix and profile in there.

"We felt that John gave us that specialist seven role and we have other players who have the versatility to cover if necessary.

"So we were looking at those first two games against Japan and the United States, which are just four days apart, with the third against South Africa six days later, when we made that call."

Hardie's inclusion has also ended the World Cup hopes of another New Zealander, Blair Cowan.

The London Irish loose forward's omission is just as big a shock as Hardie's inclusion after Cotter named him in all five of his starting line-ups during this year's RBS 6 Nations.

Cotter admitted letting down one of his most dependable recruits was tough. "That's part of the job," he said after announcing his squad at Edinburgh University's Old College Quad.

"It's difficult because you spend time with these people and they worked really hard to push this group forward.

"But it was the deal from the start. We knew it was 46 to be cut to 31 and we had to make our decisions. We let the players know they wouldn't be involved and that's never particularly nice."

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