Sport Rugby

Monday 23 April 2018

Flanker John Hardie axed by Scotland over alleged cocaine use as Gregor Townsend calls up 10 new faces

John Hardie of Edinburgh Rugby warms up prior to the European Rugby Challenge Cup match between Edinburgh Rugby and Grenoble at Murrayfield Stadium on November 13, 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images)
John Hardie of Edinburgh Rugby warms up prior to the European Rugby Challenge Cup match between Edinburgh Rugby and Grenoble at Murrayfield Stadium on November 13, 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has named 10 uncapped players in his squad for next month's autumn Test series.

The Dark Blues face Samoa, New Zealand and Australia at BT Murrayfield on three successive Saturdays, starting on November 11.

But there is no place for Edinburgh flanker John Hardie, who has been suspended by both club and country amid reports of alleged cocaine use.

The union said in a statement to BBC Scotland that it was "unable to comment further given the nature of the investigation".

Townsend's 36-man squad includes uncapped centres Phil Burleigh (Edinburgh), Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons), wing Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) and scrum-half Nathan Fowles (Edinburgh) as well as the front-row trio of Jamie Bhatti, George Turner (both Glasgow) and Darryl Marfo (Edinburgh), Glasgow lock Scott Cummings and back-row forwards Luke Hamilton (Leicester Tigers) and Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh).

Bhatti, Burleigh, Cummings and Ritchie were involved in the senior Scotland squad in the summer camp in St Andrews, while Turner was also an uncapped tourist in the summer but this is the first taste of international involvement for the others.

Captain Greig Laidlaw misses out with a fractured ankle while Fraser Brown is also missing with a knee injury. However, stand-in skipper John Barclay has overcome concussion worries to make himself available.

Full-back Stuart Hogg and wing Tommy Seymour also return to the Scotland set-up after their involvement with British & Irish Lions last summer, while centre Huw Jones and hooker Stuart McInally are also involved after sitting out the Scots Asia-Pacific trip back in June.

Townsend said: "The players selected have worked exceptionally hard at their clubs to earn inclusion in the national squad and we are looking forward to working with them throughout the autumn series.

"They will need to intensify their efforts further still to earn the opportunity and honour of playing in front of capacity crowds in what are three exciting fixtures.

"We're facing two of the world's top three sides after a significant challenge from Samoa in our opening game. It will be an excellent challenge for our players."

Some of the names involved in Townsend's squad will be new to supporters. Former Glasgow back McGuigan played for Scotland 7s in 2012, making six tournament appearances.

He earned one Scotland A cap in 2014, scoring in the side's 16-16 draw with England Saxons at Scotstoun. He joined current club Sale Sharks in 2016 and is joint top try-scorer in this season's English Premiership.

Prop Darryl Marfo has impressed at Edinburgh since arriving from Bath at the start of the season, featuring in every game so far this season. Born in London, he is eligible to play for Scotland through his mother, who is from Ayr.

Former Wales Under-20s forward Hamilton - whose father is from Stirling - joined Leicester in the summer of 201

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