Gregor Townsend has named his first Scotland side since the dark blues took on France back in March. With this game taking place outside World Rugby’s test window and no players involved from the Gallagher Premiership or Top 14 it’s an entirely home-based selection – 13 from Glasgow and 10 from Edinburgh.
The headline is the number of new caps – there are 8 players in line for their Scotland debuts. This will be the most in any game during the Townsend era, topping the 4 first caps awarded in matches against Samoa in 2017 (Jamie Bhatti, Chris Harris, Darryl Marfo and George Turner) and Canada in 2018 (Lewis Carmichael, Adam Hastings, James Lang and Jamie Ritchie).
Overall there are 14 changes to the 23 that triumphed in Paris. In the backs, Darcy Graham, Sam Johnson and Ali Price started at the Stade de France. They are joined by the contrasting styles of new caps Sione Tuipulotu and Rufus McLean. While they may be the same height, Tuipulotu is listed as nearly 20kgs heavier than the fleet-footed McLean! At 21 years and 7 months, McLean will be the first player born in 2000 or later to play for Scotland Men.
Winger, Kyle Steyn,will make his first start having debuted off the bench in the pre-pandemic game against France at Murrayfield in the 2020 Six Nations. The starting backline is rounded out by Blair Kinghorn who will play in the 10 shirt for the first time for the national side. Kinghorn hasn’t played for Scotland since last year’s Autumn Nations Cup fixture against France.
George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson all return from the starting pack that knocked over France. Matt Fagerson is back having missed the game in Paris through injury – prior to that, he had started 6 in a row at number 8 for Scotland. Among the current squad, Robert Harley is the only forward who made his Test debut back when Andy Robinson was head coach. The Ginger Ninja will make his first start for Scotland since November 2016 – it will also be his first start at lock.
A duo of new caps from Edinburgh complete the starting pack. Pierre Schoeman has qualified to play for Scotland 2 years earlier than expected thanks to the delay in the implementation of the 5-year residency period. Jamie Hodgson has progressed from a Partnership Contract with Watsonians to a full-time deal with Edinburgh and now international honours.
On the bench, Stuart McInally returns having missed the Six Nations. Glasgow prop, Oli Kebble moves one seat over on the bench having covered loosehead prop in Paris but seemingly acting as tighthead replacement on Saturday. Jamie Bhatti is set to win his 19th cap (with 17 of them coming from the bench). The Edinburgh trio of Marshall Sykes, Luke Crosbie and Nick Haining will provide plenty of aggression. Haining started against France in March while Sykes and Crosbie will both win their first caps. Crosbie has had to be patient waiting for his opportunity having first been called up to a national squad during the 2019 Six Nations.
Glasgow’s uncapped half back pairing of Jamie Dobie and Ross Thompson will give a glimpse of the future when they join the fray. Dobie (date of birth 7/6/01) will be the first player born in the 21st century to play for Scotland’s Men’s team.
15. Darcy Graham
14. Kyle Steyn
13. Sione Tuipulotu*
12. Sam Johnson
11. Rufus McLean*
10. Blair Kinghorn
9. Ali Price (cc)
1. Pierre Schoeman*
2. George Turner
3. Zander Fagerson
4. Jamie Hodgson*
5. Robert Harley
6. Jamie Ritchie (cc)
7. Hamish Watson
8. Matt Fagerson
16. Stuart McInally
17. Jamie Bhatti
18. Oli Kebble
19. Marshall Sykes*
20. Luke Crosbie*
21. Nick Haining
22. Jamie Dobie*
23. Ross Thompson*
* Denotes uncapped player
- 16 of the matchday 23 came through the Scottish Rugby Academy system and the same number previously played at u20s level for Scotland.
- 6 of the squad have played 7s for Scotland.
- The pack weight is only 892kgs – although that is 2kgs more than the starting forwards against France in the Six Nations.
- This is the youngest 23 named by Gregor Townsend for any game bar the 3 played on the 2018 Summer Tour of North and South America.
- If the bench is cleared against Tonga then the Townsend era will have, so far, seen 42 new caps and 92 players used in total.