Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v France: Summer Nations Series 2023, Match Preview pt II – head to heads

Scotland forwards George Turner, Rory Darge and Matt Fagerson - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports
Scotland forwards George Turner, Rory Darge and Matt Fagerson - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports

There are just 4 changes to the starting XV from the last time that Scotland met France, five months ago in Paris. The retired Stuart Hogg and injured Jamie Ritchie are replaced by Blair Kinghorn and Jack Dempsey who were on the bench at the Stade de France. Darcy Graham returns from injury in place of Kyle Steyn while Ewan Ashman takes over at hooker from George Turner.

By contrast, Yoram Moefana and Ethan Dumortier are the only returning starters from the Six Nations encounter between these sides, with Matthieu Jalibert, Baptiste Couilloud and Sekou Macalou (the latter two of whom were unused subs in March) promoted from the bench.

The total cap counts for the starting XVs have dropped from:

Scotland 613 – 439 France
Scotland 562 – 165 France

13 Scotland changes from last Test (v Italy)

  • 15 – Kinghorn for Smith
  • 13 – Jones for Harris
  • 12 – Tuipulotu for McDowall
  • 11 – van der Merwe for Steyn
  • 10 – Russell for Healy
  • 9 – White for Price
  • 1 – Schoeman for Sutherland
  • 2 – Ashman for Turner
  • 3 – Z. Fagerson for Walker
  • 4 – R. Gray for Skinner
  • 5 – Gilchrist for Cummings
  • 6/8 – Dempsey for Crosbie
  • 7 – Watson for Darge


Blair Kinghorn
Darcy Graham
Duhan van der Merwe


Brice Dulin (c)
Louis Bielle-Biarrey*
Ethan Dumortier

48  Tries  5
95kg  Average weight  
106  Total caps  
6  RWC matches  0
27.0  Average age  24.4

2nd time this unit has started together for Scotland (the previous occasion was v Georgia in 2020 when Duhan made his Test debut).

This back 3 trio have also started together 15 times for Edinburgh, although not since 1st January 2021 at an empty Murrayfield against Glasgow. At full back, Blair Kinghorn will need to fill the gap left by Stuart Hogg – one of the crucial components being how he links up with and complements Finn Russell.

Blair’s recent outings at 10 should leave him well-positioned to step into the attack but he has relatively little direct experience of starting in this role alongside Finn. Just 2 of his 8 starts at full back came when Russell was playing at stand off. The warm-up games could be crucial in building the relationship between these two ahead of the RWC and confirming if Kinghorn is as secure as a first choice as his Edinburgh back 3 colleagues already are.


Huw Jones
Sione Tuipulotu


Emilien Gailleton*
Yoram Moefana

18  Tries  2
102kg  Average weight  
52  Total caps  
0  RWC matches  0
28.1  Average age  21.6

6th time this unit has started together for Scotland

The 6th outing for Huwipulotu in Scotland colours means this partnership has overtaken Huw Jones’ centre pairings with Peter Horne and Sam Johnson (5 starts each) and is behind only the Alex Dunbar / Jones duo (10 starts) for Shuggy’s most frequent combination at Test level.

While the try-scoring race between Darcy Graham (18) and Duhan van der Merwe (17) is drawing most of the attention, Huw has quietly returned to the free-scoring ways of his early days with Scotland after a mid-career slump. The Warriors’ midfielder has bagged 6 tries in his last 8 appearances and now has 16 in total. He seems to have found the ideal foil in Sione Tuipulotu to return to his best form and lock down the centre berths with his Glasgow teammate.


Finn Russell (c)
Ben White


Matthieu Jalibert
Baptiste Couilloud

11  Tries  4
90kg  Average weight  
83  Total caps  
7  RWC matches  0
28.0  Average age  25.4

5th time this unit has started together for Scotland

Finn Russell is the 12th player overall and 4th back to captain Scotland during the Townsend era. The Muscle has become increasingly influential as his international career has developed. During the biggest moments of the World Cup, it will be his decision-making in attack that could be the difference between success and failure.

The rest of the backline is being built around him with a suitable blend of skills to complement what Finn can bring to the game. Ben White’s solidity at scrum half provides balance for the mercurial stand off and the two have been allowed to build up a strong relationship over a number of games. George Horne should get a chance next week but with White having overtaken Ali Price, the pairing for this match looks almost certain to be first choice for the World Cup.


Pierre Schoeman
Ewan Ashman
Zander Fagerson


Jean-Baptiste Gros
Pierre Bourgarit
Demba Bamba

355kg  Weight  344kg
7  Tries  1
86  Total caps  
3  RWC matches  1
26.7  Average age  25.2

1st time this unit has started together for Scotland

While this might be the new starting front row trio it’s worth noting that Ewan Ashman is a new addition to a very established pair of props – Pierre Schoeman and Zander Fagerson have started together in 17 of the 23 Tests played since Schoeman’s Scotland debut. The loosehead/tighthead combo are undoubtedly the dark blues’ first picks.

Ewan has a real opportunity to make his case for the number 2 jersey as he starts for the first time in his career at Murrayfield. The incumbent at hooker is George Turner who has started 18 out of the last 28 Tests for Scotland. The two men have similar profiles as aggressive carriers and defenders. Which of them runs out against South Africa may come down to who is nailing their set piece basics best over the Summer Nations Series.


Richie Gray
Grant Gilchrist


Cameron Woki
Bastien Chalureau

244kg  Weight  227kg
4  Tries  1
135  Total caps  
15  RWC matches  0
33.5  Average age  28.1

8th time this unit has started together for Scotland

Since Richie Gray’s return to the national side, he and Grant Gilchrist have been the go-tos at lock whenever they have been available. The injury-enforced absence of Jonny Gray – who started 7 of Scotland’s 9 fixtures across the 2015 and 2019 RWCs – reduces the options for this year’s tournament but the return to fitness of Scott Cummings might prove to be the biggest challenge to the veteran duo.

Neither Richie nor Grant were significant contributors as carriers during the Six Nations – 3.7 carries per 80 minutes and 0.6 per 80 respectively. While both players will hit rucks and make their tackles, that leaves a hole to be filled for a Scotland pack who have been used to having the younger Gray available to make 10+ carries per game.

While their sheer heft may be welcome against the Springboks’ monster pack it still feels like selection here is not 100% settled with a better balance to be found in the styles of play of the tighthead and loosehead lock.


Matt Fagerson
Hamish Watson
Jack Dempsey


Paul Boudehent*
Sekou Macalou
Yoan Tanga

325kg  Weight  324kg
9  Tries  1
100  Total caps  
1  RWC matches  0
28.7  Average age  26.2

1st time this unit has started together for Scotland

Glasgow have switched Matt Fagerson to the blindside 13 times across the last two seasons to accommodate both him and Jack Dempsey in the same back row so this won’t be a new experience for either player. Zander’s wee brother has started 26 of Scotland’s last 30 Tests (23 at number 8 and 3 at blindside flanker) but finds himself in one of the most competitive areas of the team ahead of the World Cup.

That’s true for the other regular selections of recent years in the back row with Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie only tending to miss out when injured. There’s a case to be made for all of the main trio coming under pressure for their places with Dempsey, Rory Darge and Luke Crosbie in fine form at club level and showing strongly in a Scotland jersey as well. The final decision on the breakaway selection may not be made until much closer to kick off against South Africa.


Dave Cherry
Jamie Bhatti
WP Nel

Scott Cummings
Rory Darge



Peato Mauvaka
Reda Wardi
Sipili Falatea

Paul Willemse
Dylan Cretin

111kg  Average weight  116kg
9  Tries  9
126  Total caps  
13  RWC matches  0
30.0  Average age  27.6

Jamie Bhatti has had jersey number 17 for 8 of Scotland’s 11 Tests this season. WP Nel has filled the 18 shirt 6 times. There’s a strong possibility that the coaches already know who the dark blues’ replacement props will be when they kick off their RWC campaign against South Africa in five weeks’ time.

At hooker, Dave Cherry is probably battling Stuart McInally for the final hooker slot in the RWC squad and will be hoping his setpiece solidity gives him the edge. Scott Cummings and Rory Darge will look to back up strong performances against Italy and neither player will be intending to settle for a bench role.


George Horne
Cameron Redpath
Ollie Smith


Baptiste Serin
Antoine Hastoy
Arthur Vincent

8  Tries  7
89kg  Average weight  
30  Total caps  
3  RWC matches  3
24.8  Average age  26.4

As the only group of players selected where the Scots are younger than their French counterparts, there’s just a hint that Gregor Townsend and his coaching staff need some backs to make a significant step up for the task ahead. Three Lions are currently being squeezed out following the retirement of Stuart Hogg; Ali Price losing his previous status as unchallenged first choice scrum half; and Huwipulotu’s form meaning no place for Chris Harris, at least partly contributing to the youthful bench lined up for Saturday.

Blair Kinghorn’s flexibility allows for more options among the replacements but decisions need to be made about whether the back subs are game changers, game steadiers or purely for emergency injury cover. Given the scale of the task facing the pack, there’s also the question of whether priorities need to lie up front and a 6 forward 2 backs split on the bench is the way to go.

* Test debut


– 1,017 days have elapsed since Blair Kinghorn last started at full back for Scotland and it’s 813 days since his last start in the 15 shirt for Edinburgh. His previous outings in this position at Test level are – Canada (A) 2018, Wales (A) 2018, France (A) 2019, Georgia (A) 2019, Georgia (H) 2019, Russia (N) 2019, Georgia (H) 2020.

– This the 14th time in 68 Tests during the Townsend era that Scotland’s starting lineup has included more than 500 previous caps.

– 8 of the French starting lineup (plus one from the bench) have never played in a Test against Scotland before. For the Scots only Ewan Ashman in the XV plus Cameron Redpath and Ollie Smith among the subs will be getting their first experience of playing against France at this level.

– The Scottish pack has a combined weight of 924kg. There are only 3 times that a heavier starting eight has been named during the Townsend era, with all 3 of those occasions coming within the last 12 months.

– The last time Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe started together for Scotland was against Argentina in the autumn when the wing twins scored 4 tries between them.

– The 13 changes to starting lineup and 15 players introduced from outwith the 23 not the most in the Townsend era. Against Canada in 2018 there were 14 changes to the XV (Fraser Brown was the only returning player) and 20 new faces in the 23 compared to the selection for the final game of the Six Nations v Italy.

– Skipper, Brice Dulin, hasn’t played for Les Bleus since he was the last Frenchman to have possession of the ball in his side’s loss to Scotland in Paris in 2021.

If you missed Part 1 – previous meetings, scouting report and more – check it out here.

62 Responses

  1. Excellent article Kevin. Wonder if you had to do a quick check on the spelling of “complement”? Although I’m sure Kinghorn is very complimentary about Finn anyway!
    This is a must win, with our strongest XV against a backup French side, at Murrayfield. I’d take a great performance with no injuries, but we need a win to get confidence that we can perform against the top 4.

  2. This feels like a strong team and when Scotland play confidently, as a team , we are at our best. A tough win tomorrow will be great for confidence. Is it too early to say I am optimistic we can do the unexpected and get out of the group , well I have said it now. I just sense this is a level headed bunch of grafters and a big win is coming.

  3. Strong team, Finn as captain is very exciting, the only issue in the outside backs (looking forward to the world cup) is lack of a real kicking option, all 3 guy’s 1st instinct is to run.
    I know it’s personal preference but Crosbie adds something to the back row we haven’t got namely 6ft 5″ of pure aggression……. I reckon he needs 3 4 5 games to “get his eye in”

  4. Very interesting watching the Squidge rugby preview, showing how close we came against both Ireland and France during the 6N. His view that we are the most dynamic attacking force is reasonable, just need to cut the errors out :)

    1. Thanks for pointing out the new Squidge video. Excellent watch as ever. That combination in midfield can be amazing, able tonask more questions than most defences can cope with. It is a mark of how unselfishly Finn sees his role as making other look good. When Finn is firing everyone plays better and we can dare to dream.

  5. Whatever margin we win by against this crazy French selection we will not get much credit. if we lose it will be a real blow. Its a no win situation for us I feel

    1. Pyt: You are right , could not disagree with that. I simply think , there is nothing at stake here, we are not at the tournament, yet, we know 60% of the test side picks itself anyway. I think this is probably the only kind of match we ever play, where we can take credit , or demerit, not from winning or losing , but from the way in which we get there.

      Kevin: Excellent overview , thank you.

      All: Enjoy the match

  6. I estimate that 2 of the starting 15 of France’s selection will start in the World Cup and less than half
    will make the French 33 selection. If we win by 10 plus points the hype will reach an all time high(this millennium anyway)

  7. Lot of pressure on Scotland to dispatch a very talented but decidedly B/C France team, to retain credibility after fielding essentially our strongest line up. Weather could be a bit of a curveball too. Any kind of win and no injuries would be gratefully received but I think France might shock us with how good their fringe players are.

    1. I don’t think there is a lot of pressure on Scotland at all. Or at least France are under more pressure.

      It is a warm up for a tournament where no one expects us to go anywhere, against the higher ranked host nation. Those playing haven’t had a game in weeks, let alone together. That context has not changed, and the wider rugby media seems focussed on other warm ups and nations.

      This should be a fun one: two sides crammed with excellent players – one looking to get systems firing, the other with players making a case for selection.

  8. Anyone any idea what the piece of music is that is played as we file on to Murrayfield?

  9. Result so far is what you can expect by reappointing Clownsend as coach. A totally clueless Scotland!

  10. As poor a half as I’ve seen for a wee while, line-out a lottery, no control whatsoever, France well coached Scotland less so

  11. Genuinely terrible refereeing and that is putting it kindly. Turned numerous big moments – blunting Scottish attack and gifting France opportunities, to say nothing of the swinging arms on White and DVM. This is how corrupt officiating impacts games – swinging momentum at the key times then giving back penalties when it makes zero difference to appear balanced. Clear as day bias whoever is involved in the TMO (Irish by any chance?), as there is little other explanation, and O’Keefe (at best) open to constant direction from the higher ranked team. Someone needs to have a firm word with him at half time, and tell Finn to step up and point it out on the pitch. I hope GT has it in him to speak with the officials. Feels like a rusty performance with a refereeing team determined to procure the result for the French and world rugby. It’s the start of another World Cup, so who should be surprised.

  12. wow what a terrific effort that was in the second half and what a contrast with that first half. Really enjoyed that.

  13. Beat the French and the TMO. Russell and the whole team stepped it up. Horne staked his claim at 9 and the replacement front row held their own. Above all, ground out this win through sheer force of will. Phenomenal.

    1. Nothing wrong with the officiating, we caused problems for ourselves. We were shocking in the first half, controlled in the second. White hopefully isn’t a loss, Horne to start next week (although we all know that GT will pick Price) and ZF needs someone to have a word with him.

  14. Having just swallowed my hat….Crikey! talk about a game of 2 halves. Why can’t we shake off this issue of turning up for only 40 mins?

    What a difference Darge makes imo…surely a stick on in the starting side.
    Dave Cherry is soo underrated…excellent hooker and consistant thrower..Id have him as starter..let alone making the squad.

    1. Darge is some player. Heard an Irish fan say that Scotland won’t ever get any better than the last 6 nations. With the likes of him and Redpath, Finn going from strength to strength, whisper it, there’s a future for this team too.

  15. Everything considered a tremendous win.
    As Vern Cotter said Its hard to get a handle on Scotland (or something like that)
    Playing proper rugby Scotland are pretty good, but the errors the inconsistentcy that kill us.
    Ashman is not to be trusted, Cherry a solid citizen
    Kinghorn is unquestionably a good player but…..
    Z.Fagerson, what hoes through his heed

    1. Seemed to me playing BK at 10 wasn’t a waste of time after all.I can’t see any other reason for that ballsy performance.The feeling of having a permanent home may be another or just feeling more senior,whatever,he was very good…in attack.
      But,his defence wasn’t tested on Sat and that’s the issue for me.if he’s got rid of the fear when contact is coming his way..we’ll..let’s rock.

  16. This team is never beaten. That’s the takeaway.

    P.S. Glimpse of a cheeky Redpath / Jones midfield pairing, not suggesting for one second changing Huwipulotu! Kinghorn is some find at 15 lol. Cummings back. Ritchie Gray easily lasts the whole game. Darge an immediate influence. So so many positives.

  17. …and Zander!!?…when will he ever learn? Just waiting for the SA opener ban now…as if we weren’t up against it anyway.

    1. Might need to register him for a few super-6 games to have him back in time for SA…

      Sure some English/Irish players have gotten away with it before.

  18. Two points really stick out:
    – to do that with 14 men against 15, let alone a French side packed with Champions Cup and Top 14 winners (there might be bigger matches to come but not bigger challenges)
    – every player believed they would win and was not going to allow anything else at the end, could see it in every contact and feel it, it was beyond the second half at Twickenham and should be game changer in confidence

  19. That was a great performance, ignoring the poor first half. Why are we always diesel engines in getting going? Stressful to watch, but great show of grit and focus in second half. Cherry and Darge excellent, Bhatti still not convincing, Kinghorn outstanding. Horne excellent. We’ll need 80 mins of that next week when we face their A team.

  20. Ashman and White not communicating at the mall in first half- disastrous. Cherry showed how it’s done.

  21. Scotland ponderous throughout the first half. Forwards still not competing effectively at the breakdown and at least two of them consistently fail to make any ‘go-forward’ contribution. All credit for second half surge of energy and persistence but anything less than an 80 minute performance of that intensity is unlikely to beat either SA or Ireland.

  22. If there’s one player you had to choose to stay fit and on form for the RWC, it’d be Richie Gray. At 34, he still has power in the tight, 80 minute stamina and on the end of the right darts is nailed on either to win our throws or steal or disrupt the opposition’s. His skills and nous will be needed when we play Saffers and Ireland in France, or indeed anyone else if we get out of the group.

    1. Ritchie Gray and Finn pls. With Schoeman, Nel and Dempsey not far off. And you’d want at least one of VDM and Darcy fit and firing. At least elsewhere there are some options.

  23. I saw nothing wrong with the officiating today..If these comments are to be made after a Scottish win, what will they like after a loss by us. to satisfy some posters we would need a Scottish referee
    and Scottish TMO for our games …not to mention cheating opposition players ( our players never cheat!!)

    1. I though Ben O’Keeffe was just a bit late in warning France about the penalty count in the Red Zone (Second Half).

  24. My tuppence worth. It’s the old adage but it really was a game of two halves, whole team stepped up in the second half, that plus the ref giving a lot of decisions our way meant a huge shift in momentum.

    Darcy, what a player. Kinghorn had a good game too. Dave Cherry gave the most assured performance over the last two weeks. Zander needs his head looking at, still too many moments of madness. It’s a concern, no doubt we won’t get the Irish treatment where bans always seem to match exactly the number of games before you have an important one… thought Mish had a pretty decent game, not his best by any means but better than he has been of late, Darge was excellent when he came on as was Cammy Redpath. Finn had a solid game, looked a bit rusty in the first half but that’s forgivable. Shame about Ben White, hope he’s ok, but he wasn’t having his best game IMO and Hornito stepped it up when he came on. Hopefully Toonie gives him a run out in the 9 shirt next time.

    Lot of folk getting hung up on the “second string” French side, yes there were some big name missing but such is the depth of talent in France it’s not like it was a bin juice team was it, still a full on French test side.

    1. Absolutely a second string team, only a handful likely to force their way into the 23 and not too many more into the 33. But France rivals NZ and SA in terms of strength in depth, if not surpasses them. A second string France drew a test series in Australia and won in Japan in recent years.

      We were painfully slow to get started but when we were up and running blew them away. So reasons for optimism as well as concern but we hopefully have time to blow away the cobwebs and ensure we don’t start so ponderously against SA.

  25. 14 man Scotland beat France, that’s what the headlines should say. I got what I wanted, a hard earned win to build confidence and resilience. That is what we can do when we play as a team, I loved this match , it took all 14 to win. Even the close out when France attacked, we stayed cool and a turnover to close the game.

    What about the way we did it ! Some really poor kicking first half, we looked clueless, but when we started to run directly they made mistakes. Credit to George Horne for his fast service, that was key , second half.

    Red was a red , all day long.

    1. Agree red was fair but I hope it is seen as a low end offence given there was little speed or force in the collision and no injury resulted. A 2 game ban would probably suffice…

      1. In fact, I feel he has let the team down and can’t be trusted not to be stupid. Is he a liability?

  26. Watson is done at test Level….has been anonymous every match ive watched him for almost 2 years. Slow, no real go forward and ineffective at the jackal now.

    Would not be in my RWC squad. Ritchie, Darge, Fagerson, Dempsey, Bayliss should be in the final squad…from what ive seen. Crosbie just hasn’t transferred his abilities to international level.

  27. Agree with RuggersB re Watson.

    Hastings out of the squad (unless he is unfit) is a mistake for me, it just means all our eggs in the one basket – run from everywhere, no real alternative.

    1. Finn and Healy offer two ends of the No 10 spectrum…BK10 is also there if needed. Why take 3 tens? Hastings a little unlucky but tactically it makes sense to me…we’ll need plenty of forwards

      1. I’ve not seen anything to suggest that Healy is a better or more rounded 10 than Hastings.

        As for potentially having to shoehorn Kinghorn in at 10, we’ve little enough chance at overcoming either South Africa or Ireland as it is…

  28. Stick or twist for next week?

    Surely has to be Scotland B/C versus France A. Keep Finn, RG, Nel, Schoeman, Dempsey, Huwipulotu, Darcy, VDM and Kinghorn miles away from St Étienne. Was about to say Price and Hastings are due a run out, along with the likes of Redpath, Harris, Cummings, Ritchie. See if we can’t decide who should be starting at Hooker.

    Shot to nothing and preserve the momentum of the starting XV.

  29. Team for France

    Kinghorn – Graham – Jones – Tuipolotu – Van Der Merwe – Russell (C) – Horne – Dempsey – Darge – Ritchie (VC) – Gilchrist – Gray – Sebastian – Turner – Schoeman

    Steyn – Redpath – Price – Fagerson – Cummings – Walker – Bhatti – Cherry

    Despite risk of injuries and this pretty much being a guaranteed loss, the experience of the atmosphere this game will provide, along with the intensity of the opposition is exactly the kind of preparation this team needs for the South Africa and Ireland games.

    Full strength other than Nel, whos only job needs to be the scrums now. Good chance to see how Sebastian and Walker handle this kind of game.

    1. I probably agree with that team to be honest, Ritchie will be the captain not Finn as Ritchie is the team captain. Depending on how Zanders hearing goes will determine whether we need to wrap Nel in cotton wool or not so I would assume the worst and give the other two a go at the weekend. I would be tempted to give Cherry a go in the 2 shirt. He was the most solid out of the 4 hookers who have played, all have played pretty well but Cherry’s darts were a lot better and he was getting around the park. I thought Mish had an ok game, not his pinballing best but better than he has looked for a while, but I agree he’s no longer the first name on the team sheet and Darge has probably usurped him. I’m pretty loose on Fagerson vs Dempsey, still think Matt Fagerson offers a lot more than he gets credit for but Dempsey is playing well and Matt is a good bench option being equally good at 6 or 8 and both Ritchie and Darge comfortable at 7.

      One thing for sure though, Horne needs to start. He always looks fantastic when he comes on but a fresh scrum half always looks great, that’s why he needs to start for a change.

    2. Rather bank the France win and see if anyone else can play themselves into contention:

      Smith, Steyn, Harris, Redpath, VDM, Healey, Price, Bayliss, Ritchie (c), Crosbie, Cummings, Skinner, Sebastian, Turner, Sutherland.

      Graham, Kinghorn, Dobie, Fagerson, Darge, Walker, McInally, Bhatti.

    3. Heart:

      Kinghorn – Graham – Jones – Tuipolotu – Van Der Merwe – Russell (VC) – Horne – Dempsey – Darge – Ritchie (C) – Gilchrist – Gray – Sebastian – Cherry – Schoeman

      Smith – Redpath – Price – Bayliss – Cummings – Walker – Bhatti – Ashman


      Kinghorn – Steyn – Jones – Tuipolotu – Van Der Merwe – Russell (VC) – Horne – Dempsey – Darge – Ritchie (C) – Gilchrist – Gray – Sebastian – Turner – Schoeman

      Graham – Redpath – Price – Fagerson – Cummings – Walker – Bhatti – Turner

      Toonie tombola:

      Smith – Steyn – Harris – Redpath – Van Der Merwe – Healey – Price – Bayliss – Darge – Ritchie (C) – Cummings – Gray – Sebastian – Turner – Schoeman

      Jones – Kinghorn – Dobie – Fagerson – Gilchrist – Walker – Bhatti – McInally

  30. Hastings and Rowe unsurprising….both simply haven’t played rugby for a long while.
    McDowell and Henderson more surprising …but an obvious lack of experience going into a RWC.

    Harris is another …similar to Watson ..that to me looks done at test level. I get the experience factor but simply hasn’t produced at test level for a fair while. Id rather see Steyn selected as he can play wing and 13 at a very good level. GT will no doubt select Harris for being a ‘defense leader’

  31. Steyn is surely guaranteed one of the five back three slots anyway?
    Worry is if ZF gets a long ban ruling him out of say the first 2/3 games in France and not just the SA match would Townsend need to take three TH’s (including ZF) and have to sacrifice someone else-ie either a sixth back row or one back five or centre? If the case then arguably Steyn covers outside centre as well so leave out Harris completely.Or else one of Crosbie/Watson/Bayliss left behind.
    Food for thought!

  32. I think when Harris first came into the side he was seen as 13 and wing cover. I thought he was pedestrian slow for a wing then and unless he has reversed centuries of evolution and actually gotten faster with age, he is a 13 or nothing.
    Since we hear so much about versatility in WC squads and the possibility of an extra tighthead now needed, I would say his coat is on the shoogliest peg – coaches favourite or not.
    Defensive leader fine and that was always the argument for Harris over Jones. The current centres work well defensively and, 1st half match rustiness aside on Saturday, have never looked the defensive bombshell that many feared. They add so much more in attack as well as shown by the comparative games versus France and Italy.

  33. When is Zandbags citation hearing and when are we likely to hear length of ban ?

    I fear a long one given his record……..

    1. Hearing today – usually takes a while to get result published and reported but as Townsend names his squad for St Etienne on Thursday guess we’ll probably find out tomorrow.

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