Scot­land bank on ex­pe­ri­ence in opener

‘We’ll look to im­pose our­selves on them and force er­rors through our kick­ing’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Rugby -

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.

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