Rugby: Townsend selects en­tire Glas­gow back­line for Scot­land v Samoa

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By DUN­CAN SMITH

Gre­gor Townsend has named an all-glas­gow War­riors back­line for his first match at BT Mur­ray­field as Scot­land coach in to­mor­row’s open­ing au­tumn Test against Samoa.

Townsend has opted for fa­mil­iar com­bi­na­tions, with Ed­in­burgh for­wards dom­i­nat­ing the pack and charged with pro­vid­ing the plat­form for the backs the coach knows so well hav­ing just left the War­riors at the end of last sea­son to take the Scot­land job.

“They’ve been in great form,” said Townsend of a back­line which will see wing Lee Jones earn his sixth cap and first at Mur­ray­field since the 2012 Six Na­tions. Cen­tre Huw Jones, who has just ar­rived from South Africa, again teams up with fit-again Alex Dun­bar in mid­field.

A half-back pair­ing of stand­off Finn Rus­sell and Ali Price is joined by aback three of full back stu­art hogg, tommy sey­mour and Lee Jones.

“Huw Jones has not played a game for Glas­gow yet, but he’s been in ex­cel­lent form for West­ern Province. We want th­ese guys to get on the ball as much as pos­si­ble,” said Townsend.

An all-ed­in­burgh front row of debu­tant loose­head Darry Marfo, hooker Stu­art Mci­nally and WP Nel is joined by club­mates Ben Too­lis at lock and open side hamish wat­son. Jonny Gray and Ryan Wil­son take the en­tire Glas­gow to­tal in the start­ing XV to nine, with

John Bar­clay cap­tain­ing the side from No 8. The Scar­lets back row for­ward is the only player in the start­ing XV who does not play for a Scot­tish pro side.

There are three other un­capped play­ers on the bench – Glas­gow loose­head Jamie Bhatti and hooker Ge­orge Turner as well as New­cas­tle Fal­cons util­ity back Chris Har­ris.

“We’ve prob­a­bly known this team for a cou­ple of weeks now,” ex­plained Townsend. “We ex­plained that to the play­ers on day one of camp that we wanted to make sure, with the short pe­riod we have, that this team trains a lot to­gether.

“We se­lected play­ers on form. We said that when we an­nounced the [ini­tial] 36-man squad. Play­ers that have worked hard this year, which leads to them play­ing well, and also we’ve looked at co­he­sion within the group, so Glas­gow back­line, Ed­in­burgh front row – play­ers that know each other very well.

“It cuts down on the train­ing time or the time you have to spend as a coach in what is al­ready a lim­ited prepa­ra­tion win­dow.”

To­mor­row will be an in­cred­i­ble mo­ment for prop Marfo, the 27-year-old Lon­doner with a mother from Ayr­shire, who was con­sid­ered fourth-choice loose­head when he ar­rived at Ed­in­burgh in the sum­mer from Bath.

In­juries have con­spired to smooth his path to a Test de­but and Townsend ad­mit­ted it is not a se­lec­tion he would have an­tic­i­pated a few months ago, although past weeks have seen him emerge as the best op­tion.

“Prob­a­bly not at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son – we didn’t know much about him,” the coach said of Marfo’s se­lec­tion. “We watched Ed­in­burgh train, he started in the first pre-sea­son game and we started to take more no­tice of him after that.

“He’s got his op­por­tu­nity at Ed­in­burgh, and part of that is in­juries, but also he’s played ahead of other play­ers we were look­ing at. He’s shown con­sis­tency and we be­lieve he’s get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter. We’re very im­pressed with how he played against Le­in­ster away – two Lions were in the Le­in­ster front row that night.”

Glas­gow’s 24-year-old loose­head Jamie Bhatti, who was work­ing in a slaugh­ter­house just a cou­ple of years ago, backs Marfo up from the bench.

When asked if the in­ex­pe­ri­enced pair face a chal­lenge in adapt­ing to the in­ten­sity of Test rugby, Townsend replied: “Same as for ev­ery­one else.

“They’ve been play­ing very well for Ed­in­burgh and Glas­gow, and they’ve fit­ted in re­ally well with our game plan. They’ve earned their places in the squad.”

Hogg and Wil­son have been given a joint vice-cap­taincy role to sup­port Bar­clay, who has re­cently re­turned to ac­tion after suf­fer­ing lin­ger­ing con­cus­sion-re­lated is­sues.

“It’s some­thing we did on tour,” con­tin­ued Townsend. “We be­lieve it’s good to nom­i­nate who is there re­ally in that role to sup­port the cap­tain, and to have one in the for­wards and one in the backs. It makes a good bal­ance.

“We have other lead­ers in the team as well. So we see Jonny Gray lead­ing the li­ne­out, Stu­art Mci­nally lead­ing the scrum and Finn Rus­sell lead­ing the at­tack. So the more lead­ers we can get in the team, the more peo­ple that are talk­ing about how we win this game and what we need to do, the bet­ter it will be for us.”

Townsend said that the fi­nan­cial prob­lems which have been dog­ging to­mor­row’s op­po­nents is an is­sue for World Rugby to deal with but didn’t hes­i­tate to say it was an is­sue he hoped could be re­solved sat­is­fac­to­rily.

“Yes, ab­so­lutely. We want ev­ery coun­try to be do­ing well, es­pe­cially a na­tion like Samoa that has been pro­duc­ing so many good rugby play­ers,” he said. “Let’s hope they get through this in a much bet­ter state than they seem to be just now.

“They are a huge part of the world­wide game of rugby, and it will be a big chal­lenge tak­ing them on this week.”

0 Dar­ryl Marfo has made rapid progress since join­ing Ed­in­burgh.

GRE­GOR TOWNSEND “We were im­pressed by Marfo against Le­in­ster”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.