Six Changes for Second Test

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has made six changes to the Scotland team to face Japan in this Saturday’s second test match in Tokyo. He said ahead of the first test that he wanted to give game time to everyone on tour which has just about happened with the exception of the injured Ross Ford. Not often he doesn’t make an appearance, and the hooker will now have to wait until November for his 100th cap.

Another big name missing from the starting XV is captain Greig Laidlaw, with Henry Pyrgos given a chance to show what he can do. As well as the captain’s armband, kicking duties will fall to him too. Ruaridh Jackson retains the 10 shirt with Pete Horne moving off the bench into the inside centre berth instead. Originally not picked in the touring party, Matt Scott shuffles outside for the injured Duncan Taylor. Sean Maitland gets a start on the wing with a return to what was the “top” back three available at least until Maitland’s form nosedived. While it means Damien Hoyland misses out altogether, Stormers centre Huw Jones comes on to the bench for potentially a first cap as does hardy perennial Sean Lamont.

In the pack, Rory Sutherland keeps the loosehead berth after a strong showing last weekend and it is his first start for his country and Stuart McInally continues at hooker. If he can improve the odd lineout error we saw last weekend he could mount a serious challenge to Ford. For the first time since he burst on to the scene a year ago, WP Nel gets a wee rest on the bench while Moray Low gets a chance to bolster the scrum.

John Hardie also gets a bit of a rest with a beefy back row of Strauss, Barclay, Wilson but out new favourite import is on the bench if a bit of zip is needed late on. In the second row it is business as usual for the Gray brothers.

With the Emperor in attendance this weekend, the Japanese team will be looking to make amends for an penalty strewn performance that kept them out of contention until Scotland were well ahead. Scotland will want to secure the series with another win, and with Horne, Jackson and Pyrgos running things preferably in some style – but even without Laidlaw in charge, it may remain: by any means necessary.

Scotland team to play Japan at the Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo, Saturday 25 June (kick-off 7.20pm JST, 11.20am BST, – live on BBC):

Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Matt Scott, Pete Horne, Sean Maitland, Ruaridh Jackson, Henry Pyrgos (capt); Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInallly, Moray Low, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Josh Strauss, John Barclay, Ryan Wilson.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, WP Nel, Tim Swinson, John Hardie, Greig Laidlaw, Huw Jones, Sean Lamont


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Alan Kerr is a long time rugby lover and occasional player for Broughton FP RFC. Site co-founder Al prides himself on offering the "man on the bus" view of Scottish Rugby!

31 comments on “Six Changes for Second Test

  1. Cameron on

    Big fan of shuffling the deck here. Again, I marvel that we’ve got maybe our 4th and 5th choice centres playing and nobody minds. Imagine that 5 years ago. Fantastic to have such strength now.

    Nice to see the front row get a bit more of a chance to lay down a marker. Succession planning and impact from the bench are so important, particularly for a small player pool like ours.

    To my mind, if we look at it, the only areas I’m really worried about if we lose 2/3 players from the starting line up are the front row and 10. I feel we can at the very least muddle by in all others.

    Fairly rude health, compared to recent times.

    Can I actually allow myself some cautious optimism?

  2. Matto on

    This will be a good test of our second string front row. The lineup should be well suited to play a blend of power, pace and guile. Vern has answered the cries of many in starting Pyrgos, so it’ll be interesting to see how his selection influences the game’s style and management.
    I’m wary that Japan will be extremely fired up for this one, so our lads better be feeling sharp.

  3. Will on

    Delighted that Pyrgos is being given a go. I know Laidlaw divides opinion on here, but whatever you think of him he’s been a key part of Cotter’s tactics for his whole tenure as coach so far. We need the likes of Pyrgos and SHC to get some proper game time so we aren’t left up **** creek without a paddle if Laidlaw picks up an injury

    • Rory Baldwin on

      He’s been a key part of Cotter’s success/victories but not sure he meshes entirely well with the “organised chaos” we were promised. Or maybe it is just that the pack haven’t been delivering the ball quickly for Laidlaw to speed things up – which we know he can do!

      • Robbie on

        I think the “Organised Chaos” tactic was a bit of a reaction to us not having a solid scrum. Now that we’ve got one, I think we’ve moved to something I now refer to as “The Mullet” – business up front, party in the back.

        Laidlaw is very much a part of the business up front, marshalling the forwards, the tight game, and much of the tactical kicking, before releasing Russell when he thinks it’s on. Without Finn to demand ball, and his skill to create something from nothing when the opposition are numbered up, the tactic tends to fall flat, though Laidlaw can still dictate the game against weaker opposition, as he did last weekend.

        I think it will take another change of tactic to open up the position to the other SHs coming through as none of them fit the Laidlaw model, and with no other top class kickers, that won’t be happening any time soon.

  4. The Chiel on

    Most changes were broadly predictable, but I didn’t see Pyros being appointed captain coming. Good luck to him.
    Assume it’s Jackson to take the shorter pens and Hogg the long range ones.
    Need to improve on last week to win – I’m sure Japan will get better.

    Anyone know if Jones actually needs to get on to be tied to us, or is the bench sufficient ?

    • Neilyb on

      My understanding is that a player must have played some of the match. You are capped from the bench, not on the bench.

      • The Chiel on

        Ta. I’ll confess I’ve seen nothing of Jones, but I’m just a bit concerned that he didn’t seem to be in contention for the Boks even with an A team playing the Saxons. But if Scotland is his choice, good luck to him. He’ll need to show something – as I said in a previous post, we’re pretty well stocked with international quality centres at the moment.

      • Neilyb on

        My hope is that he could prove to be a good alternative on the wing. Game time will tell I guess!

      • FF on

        Chiel – SA only selects passport holders so Jones wasn’t eligible. A few years ago the Beast was in a race to get a SA passport (he’s Zimbabwean) to continue playing for the national side. Not to mention the fact that with the racial quotas the chances of a non-SA white guy getting a call up are more or less 0.

    • Matto on

      The Chiel – Looks like Pyrgos is the designated kicker, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hoggy line up any long distance efforts.

      • The Chiel on

        Interesting one. Slightly surprised Pyrgos will be saddled with the double load of both captaincy and kicking. Again, good luck to him. For all the criticism of Laidlaw – some of it justified imo – he can always be relied on to keep the scoreboard ticking over given the chance, and those are big kicking boots to fill.

  5. Mikelinds on

    Ok, decent selection, long way from full strength, but a great opportunity for some of the fringe guys to step up. Really want to see a top display from Pyrgos, right now this is key. Shortly followed by Jackson (hopefully faster service will give him a chance to shine) and the front rowers. Sutherland had a decent run last week, good opportunity for Low.

    Go for it.

  6. jocky on

    Much better looking team, I do like the 2 7s idea but vs the top 6 it leaves us short of beef & liable to be “strangled”/knocked onto the back foot up front. I watched you tube Huw Jones & he looks a very capable centre.
    I hope Laidlaw doesn’t need to come on at 1/2 time to steady the ship, but Pygros is far better suited to play in the way we need to play

  7. Al on

    I am pleased at the backs selection but I would have preferred Denton in for Wilson tbh. He had a shocking time at bath to begin with but was finding his feet at the end of the season. I reckon he’d have a field day against the smaller Japanese forwards.

    On the subject of selections, if you want a laugh, check out the Daily Tory-graphs Lions selection poll. John Hardie doesnt even make their shortlist of seven for open side but Blair Cowan does. I would put Cowan behind Hardie, Barclay and Watson for a Blue jersey, never mind a red one.

    Still, with Fatland primed to coach them, we could win the six nations and still be lucky to get three players into a squad of 40.

    • Rory Baldwin on

      Thing I thought interesting was Jones ruled himself out but said he wouldn’t block Gustard etc if they were offered coaching positions. That improves Duncy Taylor’s chances no end if they need a Wolf Pack…

  8. Matto on

    In other news – I see Georgia have just completed a clean sweep (or at least unbeaten run) of the Pacific islands. Not to be sniffed at. Georgia – Argentina – Australia is a decent series for the Autumn. Anything between 0 (disaster) and 3 (nuclear-scale rejoicing) wins would be believable, with 1 (par) or 2 (an improvement) more likely.

    • Cameron on

      Yep. The Georgians are making a compelling case as the best team in the world without a regular ‘Tier 1’ competition, just as the Italians and Argentinians did before them. Hard to resist calls for them to get into a reformatted 6 Nations. They seem deserving of a crack at the weakest of the 6 every year. Also gives further impetus to the other strong European players at the lower level if they see there is at least a route for growth.

      Seems like an argument that is gaining weight.

      • Al on

        A good case for a two leg play off between the bottom side in the six nations and the tier 2 euro champs every year? Parachute payment to any tier 1 that drops out?

      • Merlot on

        Given the ENC is over two years it would make sense for promotion relegation from 6N every 2 years – the aggregate points meaning home and away mismatch being removed.

      • Ade on

        I’d have a 2 leg play off every two years. If World Rugby are serious about growing the game as a global sport then this is something that has to happen at some point. However, given how Italy have struggled, it might be better to give the ENC winners three guaranteed Autumn tests against 6N sides over the 2 years. So year 1 they play 1st/3rd/5th, then year 2 2nd/4th/6th. And these games have to be home and away. When the results are getting consistently close then move to a play off situation.

        I know this has lots of impracticalities, but I’m sure something can be implemented which gives the Tier 2 sides a development opportunity.

        And imagine a trip to Tblisi in the spring!!

      • FF on

        Relegation should never be allowed to happen. If Georgia are good enough (I think they probably are) the 6N should expand. But relegation would destroy rugby in Italy or Scotland which surely is not the point in ‘growing the game’.

        Rugby is an immature professional sport where it is taken seriously in a limited number of countries. It would be total madness to undermine the financial basis in any country where it is played professionally.

  9. Ade on

    Good team – can’t wait to see how Jackson/Horne/Scott go in the midfield. Also really pleased to see an alternative front row. We can’t rely on having a cast iron trio being available every game – as has been the case here. I’d rather blood the new combination against an experienced, but less vaunted pack, such as the Japanese possess.

  10. Matto on

    Very poor first half from us. Soft errors relieving any sort of pressure when we get in anything like a threatening position.

  11. Matto on

    Ooft – very messy stuff. A few good individual performances, but the team cohesion for the first 50 was really poor. How many times did we get out of jail? Bench made a huge difference. The composure improved dramatically with the subs and Laidlaw at the helm. Some good carrying by Strauss, J Gray, Sutherland. Hoggy’s boot was immense. Seymour good under the high ball. Hardie was everywhere in defence. Thought Brown was good too – particularly enjoyed the hooking. However, reckon Japan will be disappointed to have let that one get away.

    • Mikelinds on

      That was definitely a get out of jail. Played poorly, but won. Hardly had any ball in the second half. Defended well, and discipline was good. That apart, offered almost zero going forward.

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