Scotland bank on experience in opener
‘We’ll look to impose ourselves on them and force errors through our kicking’
Gregor Townsend has named the most experienced Test team in Scottish rugby history for tomorrow’s World Cup opener against Ireland in Yokohama.
Scotland’s starting XV is captained by hooker Stuart Mcinally, contains 10 players with experience from previous World Cups, and boasts 630 Test caps, or an average of 43 per man. That is significantly more than the previous record of 581, set against France at the 2003 World Cup and against England at the 2011 tournament, but still means they have less experience than Ireland, whose starting team will contain 679 caps, despite losing veteran backs Rob Kearney and Keith Earls to injury.
“I believe this team is ready to give the best account of itself,” said Scotland coach Townsend. “We’ve had our two best training sessions in the last few days, and the experience we have in our squad counts for a lot in these big games.
“It’s the opening game of the World Cup against the team currently ranked No1 in the world. We know Ireland are a very good team. You can’t disguise this as anything else than a hugely important game against a very good side.”
Townsend’s decision to opt for his most experienced side reflects the closeness of recent contests between the two sides. In this year’s Six Nations, Scotland dominated possession against Ireland at Murrayfield but failed to convert pressure into points and lost 22-13.
In virtually all of the contentious positions, Townsend has placed a huge premium on experience in Test rugby. At scrum-half the tactical leadership and flawless placekicking of Greig Laidlaw wins out ahead of Ali Price’s high-tempo game, while combative No8 Ryan Wilson has been preferred to Blade Thomson, who has just two caps. Form did, however, trump experience in the centres, where Peter Horne missed out to Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor.
Townsend also laid great stress on the ability of Scotland’s bench to “make a real impact”, and once again prioritised experience. The bench also has over 150 caps, although one player unavailable to Scotland is Blair Kinghorn, who had a recurrence of the concussion suffered against Georgia.
Elsewhere on the bench, prolific try-scorer Darcy Graham and centre Chris Harris are included on the back of their contributions against Georgia, while lock Scott Cummings claims a spot ahead of Ben Toolis and Simon Berghan pips Zander Fagerson.