New era for Scotland as Townsend names first side

Gregor Townsend (AFP)
Gregor Townsend (AFP)

Cape Town - Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has named his side to play Italy in Saturday’s opening tour Test match at the National Stadium in Singapore.

The starting side features nine changes (six forwards, three backs) to that which defeated the Azzurri 29-0 in the final match of the 2017 Six Nations, two of which replace the three absentees - Stuart Hogg, Greig Laidlaw and Tommy Seymour - currently on duty with the British & Irish Lions.

Seymour and Hogg’s places are taken by Damien Hoyland (wing) and Duncan Taylor (fullback), with the latter making a welcome return to the national team for the first time since last year’s summer tour to Japan.

Hoyland and Seymour are joined by Tim Visser, the only back-three player in the 34-man squad to have started a test in the recent Six Nations.

Centre Matt Scott - a replacement against Italy in March -  makes his first start for Scotland since Japan alongside Alex Dunbar. They are joined in the backline by returning Glasgow Warriors half-backs Finn Russell (stand-off) and Ali Price (scrumhalf).

Edinburgh Rugby prop Allan Dell and Willem Nel are two of six changes to the forwards - the latter making a welcome return after damaging an intervertebral disc in January - to pack down with fellow capital clubman Ross Ford.

A new lock partnership also takes to the field, with Tim Swinson and Ben Toolis linking up in the boiler-house for the first time.

The pack is completed by the return of Josh Strauss and John Hardie from injuries sustained in the recent Six Nations to partner captain John Barclay in the loose forwards.

Finally, Townsend has opted for a six-two split on the bench in joint acknowledgement of the anticipated, combative nature of match and the ability of the starting and replacement backs to cover several positions.

"We’ve really enjoyed our time in Singapore and have worked hard early in the week to get over the travel and get used to the climate," said Townsend.

"We’ve a great support team who have provided the advice that we needed to get over the travel as quickly as possible and our players are very professional in their application of these protocols, looking after themselves, taking on a lot of water and getting in the pool after sessions so that we’re in a good place going into the rest of this week.

"A lot of work was also done before we got here. We had three good weeks in camp before we arrived where we covered general rugby principles more specific organisation, as well as getting back up to match speed and intensity.

"Italy were developing their game into one that has them playing at pace and you could see that building throughout the Six Nations.

"They moved the ball and played some really good rugby although we expect they will still look to their strengths, which is undoubtedly their physicality that comes through their set-piece, an excellent lineout maul and a number of strong, quality ball carriers in the backline."

Teams:

Scotland

15 Duncan Taylor, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay (captain), 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Dell

Substitutes: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Magnus Bradbury, 21 Ryan Wilson, 22 Henry Pyrgos, 23 Pete Horne

Italy

TBA

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England 0
Pakistan 126/5 (45.4 ov)
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