Scotland face France without star halfback duo
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Gregor Townsend has named his team to face France in Nice at the weekend for Scotland’s first of four warm-up games before the World Cup kicks off in Japan.
Surprisingly there’s no Finn Russell or Craig Laidlaw in a matchday squad that blends youth and experience. Northampton’s much-fancied centre Rory Hutchinson is given a chance to repeat his Premiership form from the bench and Duncan Taylor starts in the number 12 jersey after a torrid time with injuries.
Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally returns as captain having led the side to the dramatic retention of the Calcutta Cup in the Guinness Six Nations finale earlier this year and takes to the field in a near all-Edinburgh pack.
He partners tighthead prop Simon Berghan and the club’s new signing Jamie Bhatti in the front-row, with Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis returning to start in the second-row as they did at Twickenham.
John Barclay (vice-captain) and Jamie Ritchie complete the capital club’s contribution in the back-row with Blue Bulls No.8 Josh Strauss starting at the tail of the pack.
Glasgow Warriors stand-off Adam Hastings is handed his first start since the 2018 Autumn Test victory over Argentina, alongside clubmate and scrumhalf Ali Price, while a new-look centre partnership of Duncan Taylor (Saracens) and Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) mans the midfield for the first time.
Fullback and vice-captain Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) anchors the back-three with fellow Hawick man Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) and Sale Sharks Byron McGuigan on the wing to complete the starting side.
There are notable inclusions in the matchday squad for Glasgow Warriors lock Scott Cummings and Northampton Saints midfielder Rory Hutchinson, who will make their Test debut if called upon from the bench in Nice this Saturday.
Townsend said: “As a coaching group we’re pleased to be able to take a strong squad across to France for this opening Test.
“We’ve enjoyed seeing the players working hard and becoming closer as a team in our camp.
“We’ve been impressed by the quality of play they’ve delivered in training but fundamentally it’s been about preparing to play.
“We’re now very much looking forward to seeing our men perform in these Test matches.”
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
Date: Saturday, August 17
Venue: Allianz Riviera, Nice
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT, 20.00 UK time)
Assistant referees: TBC