Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Russia, RWC 2019: Match Preview pt II – head to heads

Scotland v Russia
pic © Scottish Rugby Blog

Scotland head coach, Gregor Townsend, has made an intriguing selection for this game. It’s one that’s been planned for a while now though. Ten of the XV also started the warm-up match at home to Georgia at the beginning of September with another three coming off the bench (Fraser Brown would have been involved as well but for injury). How much will that advance preparation benefit the dark blues against Russia on Wednesday?

Tale of the tape

43   Tries   75
90kg   Average weight   89kg
168   Total caps   294
16   RWC caps   27
RWC debutants   0
26.2   Average age   30.2

909kg   Pack weight   873kg
Tries   23
263   Total caps   178
26   RWC caps   20
RWC debutants   0
28.4   Average age   28.6

19   Tries   28
186   Total caps   322
19   RWC caps   22
RWC debutants   1
28.4   Average age   30.2

14 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Samoa)

  • Darcy Graham (11 v Russia, 14 v Samoa) is the only player to return.
  • This is the 3rd time there have been 14 changes to the starting lineup under Gregor Townsend. The previous occasions were between the end of the Six Nations and the first Summer Test in both 2018 and 2019.

15 Blair Kinghorn
14 Tommy Seymour
11 Darcy Graham
13 Duncan Taylor
12 Peter Horne
10 Adam Hastings
9 George Horne
1 Gordon Reid
2 George Turner
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Scott Cummings
5 Ben Toolis
6 John Barclay (c)
7 Fraser Brown
8 Ryan Wilson
16 George Turner
17 Simon Berghan
18 Willem Nel
19 Grant Gilchrist
20 Magnus Bradbury
21 Jamie Ritchie
22 Henry Pyrgos
23 Chris Harris
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

ADV Scotland
15 Vasily Artemyev (c)
14 German Davydov
11 Vladislav Sozonov
13 Vladimir Ostroushko
12 Dimitry Gerasimov
10 Ramil Gaisin
9 Dmitry Perov
1 Valery Morozov
2 Stanislav Selskii
3 Kirill Gotovtsev
4 Andrey Ostrikov
5 Evgeny Elgin
6 Vitaly Zhivatov
7 Tagir Gadzhiev
8 Nikita Vavilin
16 Sergey Chernyshev
17 Azamat Bitiev
18 Vladimir Podrezov
19 Bogdan Fedotko
20 Andrey Garbuzov
22 Anton Sychev
21 Sergey Ianiushkin
23 Yury Kushnarev



Backs – advantage Scotland

Russia have lost scrum half Vasily Dorofeev and wing/centre Kirill Golosnitsky to injury. They’ve also swapped in Ramil Gaisin at stand off ahead of 111-times capped Yury Kushnarev.

At 9, 10 and 12 Scotland have the architects of a thumping 44 – 15 away win against Argentina in 2018. At 11, 14 and 15 they have players who’ve scored a dozen Test tries in the last year. This is a team set up to do some damage – they just need the ball.

Forwards – advantage Scotland

Tighthead Kirill Gotovstev starts his 4th match in a row for Russia – a heavy workload for a prop in the space of just 20 days. Talismanic flanker Tagir Gadzhiev has played all 240 minutes so far and will almost certainly go the full 80 once more against Scotland.

Valery Morozov and Andrey Ostrikov were the only players in the the Bears’ RWC squad who plied their trade outwith Russia’s Professional Rugby League last season – both with Sale. Ostrikov was coming to the end of his time in Manchester with nearly 100 Premiership games under his belt. He only made 1 league start during his final campaign though. Morozov managed 3 Premiership starts in his first season for the Sharks.

A sizeable Scottish pack has all the tools to take charge of this game. If they execute effectively at the setpiece and breakdown they’ll be able to unleash an extremely potent backline. Just doing the basics is fine – even if the game gets a bit loose it’s not for the forwards to get distracted by the razzle dazzle, but rather keep up a constant supply of quick, clean ball.

Subs – advantage Scotland

Both sides have gone for a 6 forwards, 2 backs split on the bench (confusingly flanker Sergey Ianiushkin is listed at 22 for Russia!) While Scotland have opted for this to protect players ahead of the Japan game, Russian head coach Lyn Jones’ hand has been forced by injuries. There is no scrum half on the bench with first choice Dorofeev injured (and no third 9 in the squad). In fact, both back replacements are primarily stand offs, which will further restrict Russia’s options late in the game.


– 3 men on the Russian side (it would have been 5 but for injuries) and 8 in the Scottish team played some part in the 2 European Challenge Cup games between Krasny Yar and Edinburgh during the 2017-18 season – the capital club won both by a combined score of 151 – 14.

– At 909kgs this is the heaviest pack named during the Townsend era.

– 6 players in the Scotland lineup played in the U20s 15 – 10 win over Australia during the 2016 World Rugby Championship in Manchester – Scott Cummings, Zander Fagerson, Darcy Graham, Adam Hastings, Blair Kinghorn and Jamie Ritchie.

– The only lower-ranked opponent than Russia (currently 20th in the world) that Scotland have taken on during Gregor Townsend’s tenure were Canada, who were ranked 21st when they were beaten 48 – 10 by an experimental Scottish side in Edmonton.

12 Responses

  1. If that’s the normal Russian 7 starting then he’s been superb – far better 7 than Brown.

    1. On a strict head-to-heard, you might be right that a hooker playing out of position at 7 does not quite match-up to the opponents’ standout player in the tournament. However, if the whole back row is taken into account, then we still have plenty in the bag to take them on.

      I have the sense that Toony has had this line-up, with a couple of exceptions (Taylor, Barclay, Wilson) in mind pretty much since we horsed Argentina last summer. We shouldn’t be complacent, but at the same time, we should have this game put away by half-time.

    2. Brown has been class whenever i have seen him play 7, certainly better that a lot of regular pro14 opensides, natural jackler of the ball.

  2. Surprised about the pack weight, I was actually thinking it was looking extremely light! (in rugby terms). Shows how much I know.

    1. How accurate are pack weights anyway?

      If I were SRU, I’d be knocking 3kgs off each player’s published weight…so our “lightweight” 885kg pack is in fact a more hefty 909!

  3. I see Tom English on BBC Sport saying Scot have never won 3 RWC games in a row, rubbish we beat Japan, Zimbabwe, Ireland & Samoa in, 1991

    1. Also won 3 in a row in 1999 – Uruguay, Spain and Samoa. And Scotland have beaten higher-ranked opposition at RWCs – Italy in 2007 and Japan in 2015.

  4. Scotland are going to beat Russia, pretty obviously…. can’t even imagine this one being another “upset”. Scotland really should also manage the 4 try BP though that’s not a given.

    I don’t think getting the desired result against Russia is the challenge. Japan are going to be on a roll, well-rested, playing at home, and highly motivated. That’s going to be an intriguing game and one that Scotland could easily lose.

    1. This could go pear shaped v Russia…but only if the selected players are sulking from not being selected for the Samoa match. It’ll take a good performance tho…this is a chance to make a statement for Russia…and they’ll feel they have a chance against essentially a 2nd XV.
      Japan is going to be tough. I ve watched reruns of some of their matches and at home it’ll be a big challenge. If we played to our best we should win….but I doubt we’ll either get all the tries we need…or the differential to avoid a LBP for Japan. I hope we get our ducks in a row and we peak … but I’d say we are going out. That Ireland performance, no LBP and then Japan turning them over was a huge setback. It’ll take a defensive shutdown and click in attack … possible.. but given our now historical inconsistency… I doubt it. Regardless of the Japan situation…we would have to jump a couple of levels, from where we have been at, to seriously challenge SA or NZ.
      I feel coaches and players underestimated Japan’s ability….despite having an eternity to think about it. I think some of our players thought they could get away with losing the Ireland match and still qualify…which contributed to such a mess of a performance.

      1. Im also tired of hearing players saying they all ‘block the noise’ …ie avoid all criticism. Thats all very well… but I think some of the players need to know how ‘not showing up’ affects the people who pay good money to watch them play for Scotland and invest their emotions. Without those fans they are pretty irrelevant…they are as important as a sunday pub team. I doubt Telfer, Jeffrey or Calder would have ever accepted that kind of inept and soft performance in a Scotland jersey. I expect all the players to stand up and play to their leave nothing out there. Anything else is just mediocre.Players in the press blabbing about sulking about being dropped after ireland….crikey…they absolutely dreadful…what did they expect. Get yer s**t together and play for your country!!

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