WHO would be a Scotland back row? There you are, within touching distance of a place at the Rugby World Cup but there is still that nagging knowledge that will be as close as some will get.

The arithmetic is simple. There are 10 back-row players in the squad and no more than six will travel, leaving at least four to head back to their clubs and think about what might have been.

So, no wonder Magnus Bradbury, who is one of those 10, has been in training at Murrayfield all week...despite it being earmarked as a holiday for the players who had a four-week intense summer slog before being given time off to recuperate and prepare for the warm-up double headers against France and Georgia.

"You dare to dream. It's the pinnacle in rugby," he said. "First of all, you dream of playing for Scotland. Then, if you are lucky enough to be in the mix when a World Cup is coming up, you want to do everything in your power to be involved.

"I’m just focused on working as hard as I can and putting my best foot forward for selection.


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"I’m just focusing on training right now and taking one day at a time. If it happens it happens.

"Gregor [Townsend, the head coach] wants me to be more physical and work on my consistency as well. That comes from the fitness and being able to do what I do for the full 80 minutes, instead of 50 or 60 minutes and then dropping off.

"You have your match fitness and it’s very hard to replicate that in training. The only way you get match-fit is by playing games, so hopefully I get a run of games."

Part of the pressure, but also part of the reason for optimism for Bradbury, is that he is not sure exactly where Gregor Townsend would like to play him. After being injured at the start of the Six Nations he was rushed back at flanker when Scotland played badly in Paris and was then at No.8 when they played both woefully and brilliantly in the drawn game at Twickenham.

"I’ll play wherever Gregor picks me, whether that’s at No.8 or at six," he said. "There are obviously some similarities between the two positions but at No.8 you’re more of a linking player between the backs and the forwards. You’re expected to be more of a skilful player – just look at Bill Mata at Edinburgh.

"Twickenham comes up a lot. That was the last time we played together as a team and there’s plenty we can learn. We can draw a massive amount of confidence from it in terms of how we played and fought back in that second half.

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"On the flipside, we also need to look at how bad we were in the first half. We need to eradicate those mistakes and be able to put a full 80 minutes together heading into the World Cup."

Nor is the pressure helped by understanding that the people you are competing with are some of your closest friends, and that there are going to be disappointments.

"It is going to be one of the positions where a lot of quality players will miss out," Bradbury admitted.

"It is early days but I think it is already at the back of everyone’s head that the guys you are training alongside, who you are helping through the tough sessions, the guys you are sharing a room with and having fun with, are the same guys who are after the place in the squad you are after.

"I don’t think anyone can say yet who is going to make it and who is not. There is a lot of competition."

It is competition that has only got tougher since the Six Nations when three front-line players were unavailable by the end – John Barclay and Blade Thomson both on the way back from long-term injuries, Ryan Wilson going down with a knee problem against Ireland – while Matt Fagerson was not really considered after missing the start with a shoulder problem.

Add the six players who covered the three back-row roles and the bench during the Six Nations finale and it becomes an intense battle where jubilation and disappointment are both certain.

It's a competition Bradbury is determined to win.