KO 2.00am Sunday 17th June 2018
(8.00pm local time, Sat 16th June)
BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston
TV coverage – BBC1 Scotland from 1.45am
Dougie Vipond, Andy Nicol and John Barclay return in the studio with John Beattie and Chris Paterson again providing commentary.
The summer has tended to be the time of year for experimentation for Scotland coaches over the last decade. Nearly half of the 90 players who have picked up their first caps for the dark blues have done so in what is nominally the off-season.
Scotland debutants in the last 10 years:
Summer – 42 in 26 matches
6 Nations – 23 in 50 matches
Autumn – 22 in 27 matches
Rugby World Cup – 1 in 9 matches
Total – 90 in 112 matches
Gregor Townsend has followed in this tradition with his inexperienced squad, capping James Lang, Jamie Ritchie, Adam Hastings and Lewis Carmichael versus Canada and following up this week with debuts for Matt Fagerson and George Horne against the USA Eagles while Hastings, Carmichael, Jamie Bhatti, George Turner and Luke Hamilton also make their first starts at this level.
The current tour is still 4 short of the 10 players who won their first caps in the quadrangular tournament played in South Africa during June 2013. Six of those men are current internationals – who among the current crop of fresh faces will still be playing for Scotland in five years time?
USA Scouting Report
Record in this RWC cycle
Played – 22
Won – 13
Drawn – 1
Lost – 8
Games against Tier 1 opposition
Similar to Canada last week this will be just the third match against a Tier 1 side for the US since the last World Cup. They lost 20 – 24 at home to Italy in summer of 2016 and conceded over 50 points on their own turf in a heavy defeat to a second-string Irish side last year.
Route to RWC 2019
USA have only missed out on one Rugby World Cup (in 1995) and comfortably qualified for this year’s edition in Japan with an 80 – 44 aggregate victory over Canada across a two-legged playoff. That’s taken the Americans into what looks like a brutally tough Pool D alongside England, France, Argentina and Tonga. Matching their best ever performance of 1 group stage win (as they managed in 1987, 2003 and 2011) will be a real challenge.
AJ MacGinty is the player who makes the Eagles backline tick. After being Pat Lam’s first choice stand off in Connacht’s run to the PRO12 title, MacGinty’s move to Sale produced a mixed bag of performances in his first season. Much improved consistency across 2017/18 mean he’s a man that Scotland have to take very seriously if they want to come away from Houston with a win.
He might be only an outside bet to feature on Saturday but there’s a good chance that Scottish rugby fans will be seeing more of 19 year old scrum half Ruben de Haas over the next years. Not only will he trying to take the 9 shirt for the USA but he’s also recently signed a 2 year contract with the Cheetahs in the PRO14.
A precocious talent, de Haas was playing for United States U20 while still only 17. He’s unlikely to be a regular starter for the full national side at this stage but he can provide energy off the bench as he builds his reputation and looks to have the potential to be the future at half back for the US. Essentially their George Horne, then.
This will be the 6th time the two sides have met in a capped international. Past matches:
Scotland 53 – 6 USA
Murrayfield, 4 November 2000
Scotland: John Leslie (2T); Chris Paterson (1T); Budge Pountney (1T); Gregor Townsend (2T; 4C, 5P)
USA: Grant Wells (2P)
USA 23 – 65 Scotland
San Francisco, 22 June 2002
USA: Jason Keyter (1T); Mose Timoteo (1T); Link Wilfley (2C, 3P)
Scotland: Andy Craig (1T); Andy Henderson (1T); Nathan Hines (1T); Duncan Hodge (2T); Rory Kerr (1T); Chris Paterson (2T); Jason White (1T); Brendan Laney (1T, 6C, 1P)
Scotland 39 – 15 USA
Brisbane (RWC), 20 October 2003
Scotland: Simon Danielli (2T); Gavin Kerr (1T); Gregor Townsend (1T); Chris Paterson (1T, 4C, 2P)
USA: Mike Hercus (5P)
USA 6 – 24 Scotland
Houston, 7 June 2014
USA: Chris Wyles (2P)
Scotland: Tim Visser (1T); Stuart Hogg (1T); Penalty try (1T); Greig Laidlaw (3C, 1P)
Scotland 39 – 16 USA
Leeds (RWC), 27 September 2015
Scotland: Tim Visser (1T); Sean Maitland (1T); WP Nel (1T); Matt Scott (1T); Duncan Weir (1T); Stuart Hogg (1P); Finn Russell (1C; 1P); Greig Laidlaw (3C)
USA: Titi Lamositele (1T); AJ MacGinty (1C; 3P)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant 1: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant 2: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: David Grashoff (USA)
Scotland have struggled to get on the right side of the penalty count when Mr. Barnes has been the referee. A streak of 4 consecutive games with Scottish forwards being sent to the sin bin by the barrister was at least snapped against Ireland in the most recent 6 Nations. There do still seem to be issues that other teams remain better at communicating with and adapting to the English official though. The challenge for new skipper Stuart Hogg will be to see if he can get on the wavelength of one of the most talkative referees in the Test arena.
Scotland’s last 5 games with Mr. Barnes in charge:
- 2013 – beat Ireland (H)
Penalties: 29 (For 13 – 16 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Ryan Grant)
- 2014 – beat Argentina (H)
Penalties: 28 (For 13 – 15 Against)
Cards: Scotland 2 YCs (Rob Harley, Jim Hamilton); Argentina 1 YC
- 2015 – lost to France (A)
Pens: 26 (For 10 – 16 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (David Denton)
- 2017 – beat Australia (A)
Pens: 23 (For 8 – 15 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Ryan Wilson); Australia 1 YC
- 2018 – lost to Ireland (A)
Pens: 19 (For 9 – 10 Against)
There are changes galore as Gregor Townsend explores the depth in his squad and ensures as many players as possible have a chance to impress. 12 changes to the starting XV mean that only Stuart McInally and Duncan Taylor of the original tour party have yet to be involved.
Blair Kinghorn and Byron McGuigan are the only backs to return from the game against Canada. King Blairhorn slides over to the wing to accommodate the returning Stuart Hogg who will captain his country for the first time on Saturday.
While the combinations among the inside backs may be brand new for Scotland there should be plenty of familiarity with four Glasgow players. Peter Horne and Nick Grigg have a handful of appearances as a centre pairing for the Warriors. The “Hornstings” (we’re calling it now) half-back combination of Adam Hastings and George Horne started together 5 times this season in the PRO14 as both young men had breakthrough campaigns for their club.
In the front row Jamie Bhatti and George Turner have 12 caps between them – but all from the bench and this will be a first Test start for both men. They’re joined by Zander Fagerson who is a relative veteran of the Scotland set-up despite still only being 22!
The athletic Edinburgh lock pairing of Lewis Carmichael and Ben Toolis will look to dominate the lineout and help stretch the US around the pitch. A powerful back row trio of Luke Hamilton, Tim Swinson and debutant Matt Fagerson should provide plenty of go forward with ball in hand.
7 of the 8 players on the bench featured in the 48-10 shellacking of Canada with Dougie Fife the one new face. The flying wing could feature for Scotland more than 3 years after his last appearance having rehabilitated his career, first through the 7s circuit and latterly with Richard Cockerill’s rejuvenated Edinburgh side.
USA should be another step up from Canada last week and more of a challenge in attack and defence. The Scottish 23 this week is a bit more experienced (327 caps v 224 caps) but this is still another development game from Gregor Townsend’s point of view. Even allowing for this though, the head coach will be expecting his charges to come away with a win in Houston.
Scotland XV: Stuart Hogg (c), Blair Kinghorn, Nick Grigg, Peter Horne, Byron McGuigan, Adam Hastings, George Horne; Jamie Bhatti, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Lewis Carmichael, Ben Toolis, Tim Swinson, Luke Hamilton, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Murray McCallum, Grant Gilchrist, David Denton, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Mark Bennett, Dougie Fife