EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Vern Cotter was unexpectedly gung-ho at his squad announcement on Tuesday when he said Scotland was aiming to grab the Six Nations trophy.
Scotland took only the wooden spoon in the last Six Nations, then produced an impressive effort in the Rugby World Cup to bow out in the quarterfinals to Australia in a controversial end.
Those results last year should be enough of a warning about fortune turning at any time, but Cotter saw enough positives during the World Cup to believe his side will be a legitimate contender in the Six Nations, starting with England at home on Feb. 6.
"It's important that we believe that we can compete for the title," he said. "The World Cup is behind us now, and we want to move forward and get better.
"We weren't totally happy with the World Cup. People said it was good, and it was good, it was a great time. Shared experiences are important for teams, and we have been through some good times, and some tough times.
"But those tough times will give us a harder edge for this Six Nations. We are going to have a real go."
He included uncapped props Zander Fagerson of Glasgow and Rory Sutherland of Edinburgh. Fagerson, a tighthead who turns 20 on Wednesday, could become the youngest Scotland cap since 1948, while Sutherland was an emergency call-up for the World Cup quarterfinal. Cotter said both will get some exposure.
Exeter prop Moray Low, Glasgow hooker Pat MacArthur, and flanker Chris Fusaro were summoned for the first time since 2014, and Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis had a chance to add to his one cap.
John Barclay, dropped before the World Cup, was recalled for Ryan Wilson, who was axed on form, Cotter said, before he was cited for grabbing the testicles of an opponent in a Champions Cup match last weekend.
Centers Alex Dunbar of Glasgow and Duncan Taylor of Saracens were fit after missing last year's tests injured, while fellow midfielder Mark Bennett was recovering quicker than expected from a shoulder injury.
Also invited were Wasps flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson, and Saracens center Matt Taylor, who were dropped before the World Cup.
The squad included 23 World Cup players, while five more were not considered because of injuries: Prop Jon Welsh, hooker, Fraser Brown, lock Grant Gilchrist, scrumhalf Henry Pyrgos, and center Richie Vernon.