Scotland v Georgia - teams and predictions
NATIONS CUP WARM-UP: Gregor Townsend believes Scotland are set to welcome back an improved Finn Russell, with the flyhalf’s year-long Test exile about to end.
Russell is set to make his first Scotland appearance since last year’s World Cup after being named on the bench for Friday’s match against Georgia at Murrayfield.
The Racing 92 stand-off did not feature during this year’s Six Nations before it was halted by the COVID-19 outbreak after he breached team discipline by going for a late-night drink ahead of Scotland’s tournament opener with Ireland.
Russell later gave a newspaper interview in which he detailed the breakdown of his relationship with Townsend.
The pair appear to have resolved their differences and Russell will be among the replacements against Georgia, with Adam Hastings named as the starting flyhalf by Townsend on Wednesday.
“We want him to bring his strengths, get back integrated into the group,” said Townsend after naming his side. “It’s been a year since he’s played for Scotland and a year since he’s worked with these players and coaches.
“Finn’s integrated well, he took part in the session on Monday and trained Wednesday. In training you see his skill level and it’s probably moved on a couple of notches since last time he was in the group.”
Russell was a member of the Racing side narrowly beaten by Exeter in last weekend’s European Champions Cup final.
That match saw the positives and negatives of Russell’s attacking game as he helped set up two tries for Simon Zebo but also threw an intercepted pass that led to a try for Exeter’s Henry Slade.
“I’ve chatted about his game at the weekend,” said former Scotland playmaker Townsend.
“Any game you play there is going to be errors, and especially when you’re a No.10 – and I should know that.
“We don’t want to take away from any of our players the ability to seize opportunities and make those decisions that they believe are right.
“But it’s great to see players having the courage to go for what they believe is right and with someone like Finn with his experience and skill set, those decisions will be the right ones far more often than they’re not.”
(Continue below … )
With Exeter playing Wasps in this Saturday’s English Premiership Final, there is no place for the victorious European trio of Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner in the Scotland side.
The Exeter men are set to join the Scotland squad ahead of next week’s delayed Six Nations finale against Wales in Llanelli.
Recently qualified Edinburgh wing Duhan Van Der Merwe makes his Test debut, while Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown will captain the side for the first time after being named skipper in Hogg’s absence.
Scotland was third, with two wins from four games, when the Six Nations was halted by COVID-19.
“We use the word improvement a lot so we’re not going to be changing things. We feel the game we’re putting together was a solid foundation,” said Townsend.
Meanwhile, Lelos coach Levan Maisashvili named his team for the trip to Murrayfield, with 28-year-old tighthead prop Lexo Kaulashvili to win his first international cap for Georgia.
He will be joining Mikheil Nariashvili and Jaba Bregvadze up at the front.
Locks Nodar Cheishvili and Grigol Kerdikoshvili to start in the second row, while Otar Giorgadze, Beka Saghinadze and Beka Gorgadze start in the third row.
The very well established and effective duo of Vasil Lobzhanidze and Tedo Abzhandadze start at No.9 and No.10. After injury rehabilitation captain Merab Sharikadze is back at centre, where he will be joined with young Deme Tapladze. Experienced Alexandre Todua and Young Akaki Tabutsadze to play on the wings, while Soso Matiasvhili is to start at fullback.
(Continue below … )
@rugby365com: Scotland by 18 points
Scotland: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 James Lang, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Nick Haining, 21 Cornell du Preez, 22 George Horne, 23 Finn Russell.
Georgia: 15 Soso Matiashvili, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Deme Tapladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Tedo Abzhandadze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Gorgadze, 7 Beka Saghinadze, 6 Otar Giorgadze, 5 Grigol Kerdikoshvili, 4 Nodar Cheishvili, 3 Lexo Kaulashvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Guram Gogichashvili, 18 Giorgi Melikidze, 19 Giorgi Javakhia, 20 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 21 Gela APrasidze, 22 Giorgi Kveseladze, 23 Tamaz Mchedlidze.
Date: Friday, October 23
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 19.30 (18.30 GMT; 22.30 GET)
Expected weather: Light rain and a moderate breeze. High of 12°C and a low of 6°C
Referee: Alex Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Source: AFP, with additional reporting by @rugby365com