TEAM captain Jamie Ritchie will make his first appearance of Scotland’s World Cup warm-up schedule against France in St Etienne on Saturday evening after recovering from a calf issue.
He will start at blindside flanker in place of Matt Fagerson, with Rory Darge coming in for Hamish Watson on the other flank. There are two more changes in the pack, both in the front-row, with WP Nel starting in place of the suspended Zander Fagerson at tight-head prop and George Turner returning at hooker in place of Ewan Ashman.
“He [Ritchie] is probably in the best shape I’ve seen him over the last few years,” said head coach Gregor Townsend. “He’s obviously had a couple of injuries which have curtailed his progress, but he’s built on what he did in the Six Nations. He’s fitter, stronger, we’ve had a few lively sessions before we played these two Test matches, and we’ve had a full hit-out on two occasions, and Jamie stood out really well. He was really physical defensively and got more touches on the ball with the way we are using our flankers. So, he seems ready to play, he trained fully this week in hot conditions and looked good, so we’re looking forward to seeing him in action.”
Behind the scrum, Ali Price is at scrum-half, in place of Ben White, who has not travelled to France for the game whilst rehabbing the ankle injury he picked up last weekend, although Townsend is hopeful that he will be available to be selected in the 33-man squad for the World Cup next Wednesday.
“He’s doing alright,” said Townsend. “He’s not part of our group just now. He stayed at home just to continue with rehab. Given the fact that we have two flights, one out to our training camp [in Nice] and one up to St Etienne, plus some full-on training sessions, we decided it was better for ben to stay back home, get physio, rest up, and we’re confident that he will return to training next week or the following week.
“We do have an appointment booked for him on Monday to see a specialist, just to see how it is progressing, and that gives us clarity ahead of announcing our World Cup squad. But chatting to medics last night, Ben seems to be progressing positively like we thought he would.”
Meanwhile, Kyle Steyn replaces the rested Darcy Graham on the wing. “We looked at Darcy and Matt [Fagerson], and they’ve both started both Testy matches so we felt it right not to include them this week,” explained Townsend. “They are b both fine physically, and they both wanted to play, but there’ an increased risk when you start three Test matches in three weeks so that’s the reason they’ve missed out this weekend.”
Townsend has gone for a six-two split on the bench. Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally and Javan Sebastian come in to cover the front-row, Scott Cummings and Sam Skinner primarily cover the middle-row but can also slot into the back-row, while Josh Bayliss is a back-row specialist. The two backs replacement are George Horne and Ollie Smith.
Scotland (v France at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne, Saturday 8.05pm): D Kinghorn; K Steyn, H Jones, S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; F Russell (VC), A Price; P Schoeman, G Turner, W Nel, R Gray, G Gilchrist (VC), J Ritchie ©, R Darge, J Dempsey. Substitutes: S McInally, R Sutherland, J Sebastian, S Cummings, S Skinner, J Bayliss, G Horne, O Smith