Having served a three-month suspension for gross misconduct, John Hardie’s rugby rehabilitation was completed yesterday when he was recalled to the Scotland squad preparing for Saturday’s potential NatWest 6 Nations Championship decider with Ireland.

The 29-year-old who was recruited from Otago Highlanders to play in the 2015 World Cup and has accrued 16 Scotland caps, was punished for his off-field behaviour, but Scotland assistant coach Mike Blair yesterday said that he was too good to be left out of the squad as he was named among 10 players called into the squad.

“He’s a fantastic player,” Blair enthused. “He has a good pedigree and a good history playing with Scotland. When you have player like that available it would be silly not to have him on board.

“He’s had his time off. He’s been helped through that and now he can focus on his rugby.”

Also among those returning to the fold is British & Irish Lion Richie Gray who has missed the first three matches of the championship because of a calf injury, but returned to action at the weekend, playing 58 minutes for Toulouse as they registered a victory at Bordeaux-Begles.

“He did really well to get through the game with no issues and he’s done some work today, some line-out work, so he has recovered really well,” said Blair.

Glasgow Warriors hooker Fraser Brown, who has had a lengthy lay-off as his propensity to suffer concussions has been examined, returns to the squad as do clubmates Lee Jones, who has also been undergoing head injury protocols, Zander Fagerson, who has been sidelined for a couple of months since a bench was dropped on his foot and Alex Dunbar, who has had a thigh injury.

Darryl Marfo, the Edinburgh prop who has been troubled with a back injury and Byron McGuigan, who suffered a hamstring strain during the championship opener against Wales, have also recovered from injury, while Magnus Bradbury, another Edinburgh back-row man whose off-field behaviour was problematic early in the season, resulting in him losing the club captaincy just a few weeks after being appointed, is also recalled.

The only newcomer among the 10 players brought in is scrum-half George Horne, who joins older brother Peter in the squad on the back of a succession of quality performances for Glasgow Warriors and whose work ethic has impressed Blair since the former Scotland scrum-half and captain first encountered him playing for the national sevens squad.

“Greig Laidlaw always wants to do more work, hone his game and George almost takes that to another level,” former Scotland scrum-half Blair observed.

“At the end of every training session, he says: ‘Mike, can we do ten minutes on my passing, my kicking?’

“In terms of raw talent, I saw that with the sevens, but he probably has surprised me a little bit with how he’s come onto the game.

“I think he has ten tries in 14 games? That’s phenomenal. He also leads the way in support play so, if you’re looking for an example of best practice in scrum-half play, he’s one of the best I’ve seen.”