Ireland v Scotland: Townsend hands Jaco van Der Walt starting debut

South African-born stand-off is one of six changes to starting XV for Nations Cup 3rd/4th place play-off in Dublin

Jaco van der Walt
Jaco van der Walt starts at 10 for Edinburgh after being on the bench for Scotland against England and Wales. Image: © Craig Watson.

JACO VAN DER WALT, the South African-born stand-off who qualifies to play for Scotland on residency grounds, will make his debut as starting No10 in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup play-off clash against Ireland in Dublin, replacing Duncan Weir who drops out of the squad altogether.

The 26-year-old has been eligible since 16th November, but had to spend the two weeks leading up to the France match in quarantine after being back in South Africa to get married.

He is one of six changes to the side which started against France, with Darcy Graham returning on the wing in place of the injured Blair Kinghorn (broken finger), Duncan Taylor taking over from Sam Johnson at inside centre, props Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson returning to a bolstered front-row, and Blade Thomson being selected at blind-side in a reshuffled back-row in which Jamie Ritchie shifting to open-side in place of the rested Hamish Watson.

Back-row Blair Cowan and centre/full-back Huw Jones come onto the bench for their first involvements of the Autumn.

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“We’ve been together for the past two months and from a coaching perspective it has been a real joy seeing the group come together and work so hard to improve both individually and collectively,” said Townsend. “We are looking forward to facing Ireland in what will be an opportunity to continue our progress away from home once again.”

“We have been impressed with Jaco over the time he has trained with us and we’re excited to see him take the next step into international test match rugby. It will be a tough challenge over in Ireland, given the quality of our opposition and how they will be looking to end 2020 on a positive note.

“Being able to bring back Rory Sutherland after his recent injury is a real boost, and it’s great to involve Blair and Huw for the first time this season. If they get on the field, 39 players will have had opportunities to play over the past 5 games, which underlines the current player depth throughout Scottish rugby and shows the competition there is for places now in this Scotland team.”

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Scotland (v Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Saturday @ 2.15pm GMT): S Hogg©;  D Graham, C Harris, D Taylor, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, A Price; R Sutherland, F Brown (VC), Z Fagerson, S Cummings, J Gray, B Thomson, J Ritchie (VC), M Fagerson. Substitutes: S McInally, O Kebble, W Nel, S Skinner B Cowan, S Hidalgo-Clyne, H Jones, S Maitland.

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About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. We certainly have a bit more depth at the moment. Some interesting changes yet again glad to see Jones back, and Maitland available. Front row looks good , will be interesting to see how VDW goes at 10 and no cover for him. Still not happy with Price , where is Horne Jnr , happy for SHC getting the nod , his play deserves it , but Horne is just our best option for me. A win against the Irish would be a step forward,let’s see how we go.

  2. I see Eddie Jones has been cutting his squad to a very minimal 23/25 and releasing players back to their clubs in good time for their games. Would love to know how that works in terms of training sessions and late injury cover, but surely a good thing for the omitted players.

  3. Glasgow/ Edinburgh pro 14 challenge over for another season because they can only field 2nd 15’s at best. Meanwhile Townsend uses almost 40 players in 5 games over 8 weeks in a nothing tournament in the midst of a pandemic. It beggars belief. Scottish rugby needs to sort out its priorities pretty quickly.

    • Its priority is and always will be the National side since its success funds almost all of Scottish pro rugby. This Autumn series was an opportunity to make some cash, probably not much, but some. GT has used 40 players (I’d guess) for several reasons including injury, attempts to build depth, keeping players as fresh a possible by not having them playing every game.
      Glasgow and Edinburgh are playing in a league where currently every other team is in the same situation of being without internationals, and not doing well. Thats an issue with those that are available, not the ones with Scotland

      • You need to listen to Richard Cockerill post match interview following ulster game. Glasgow/Edinburgh lose far more players than other sides. Ulster have 6 players away with Ireland. As Cockerill says “ not a level playing field”.

    • These are test matches, no such thing as meaningless tests when representing your country. Ultimately the success of the national team comes before Glasgow and Edinburgh. The more successful our National team the better our finances will be. I do feel for our two pro teams and their back staff but it does give opportunity of more players at a higher level which will pay dividends in the long run.

      • Not sure how more successful national team translates into better finance. The international calendar is fixed well in advance so results don’t influence number of games/ tv coverage/ ticket sales. Poor Scotland sides in the last 10-15 years still fill Murray field.

      • A few of these players aren’t representing their country. They are representing someone else’s country.

  4. A bit surprised that this game has been used for some squad rotation but I guess it is the last chance before the six nations. Would have thought Duncan Taylor was better at 13 than 12 but Harris seems to be about the first name on the team sheet for Toonie. Not sure if George Horne is injured? If not, don’t quite understand why he has not been involved. And guess Hogg is covering 10?

  5. Never seen so much depth in Scottish rugby. New talent being given a chance and some talented players not selected or available for the game.


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