RWC23: France v Scotland: Jamie Ritchie returns as visitors make six changes – UPDATED

Head coach Gregor Townsend is optimistic about Ben White being fit for selection to final World Cup squad

Jamie Ritchie returns as captain of the Scotland team after missing their first two World Cup warm-up matches with a calf issue. Image: © Craig Watson -
Jamie Ritchie returns as captain of the Scotland team after missing their first two World Cup warm-up matches with a calf issue. Image: © Craig Watson -

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.”

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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

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About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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. I wouldn’t be too worried about Cherry, he’s done enough to get in along with Turner. The real battle is between McInally and Ashman for the third spot. Ashman had his audition last weekend, its Rambos turn this weekend.

  2. Surprised Toony is risking so many of his first-choice players so close to the big kick-off, but suspect he is not interested in watching a second string side getting ground down by what is effectively a French 1st XV looking to flex its muscles in front of its home fans. We are only three or four shy of maximum strength ourselves and what a shut up statement it would be to the doubters if we beat them again – or even ran them close. The main objective, asides form playing with honour and not giving them an 18-point head start, must be to avoid any further injuries or suspensions. Ritchie will get a much-needed run-out to shake off the cobwebs, although he will be disappointed not to see his old friend Haoaus this time. Bayliss is making a late bid for inclusion in the final squad of 33 and may be as close as we get to a bolter. He has certainly earned his shot from the bench.

    • The main objective Sonsie is to win. If Scotland are to progress from their group then a win on Saturday would go a long way to instilling the level of belief required to overcome one or both of South Africa and Ireland, not to mention the banana skin that is Tonga. Going into a match with a main objective of avoiding injuries is the sort of loser mindset that would ensure we’ll never get out of the group. Thankfully I don’t believe GT or the players are wired this way.

  3. GT does like to keep us guessing…….. by the look of it Walker and Dobie almost certainly won’t be travelling.
    Watson and Crosbie must be sweating looks like one (or both) may not go.
    Ashman was very poor last week and that may’ve cost him his place.
    Very interesting indeed

  4. Very harsh on Cherry and Redpath, the two replacements who really fronted up, played well and crucially made a big impact when they came on last week.. especially Cherry who now doesn’t have an opportunity to stake a place prior to the final cut. Redpath can easily cover all backline positions and as such might be our most important player come tournament time where injuries will happen.

    • Can’t imagine Redpath won’t make the cut and suspect he already has his place – at least I darned well hope so. He’s certainly a playmaker in the Toony mould and offers real versatility. Cherry is probably one of the most underrated man in Scottish rugby and I would take him every time. You can depend on him when the chips are down.

  5. Surprised Sebastian isn’t starting and keeping WP wrapped in cotton wool.
    Also, does Crosbies absence mean he is out of the 33?

  6. I really do despair at how GT treats his scrum halves. Horne was good enough for the bench last week and did really well when he came on for the majority of game. So GT then rewards that by starting Price on the off chance that he rediscovers his form when the only real way to beat a very strong French team is to play fast rugby which Price hasn’t been capable off since he played for the Lions (and arguably didn’t play that way before the Lions as well).

    Cherry deserved a starting slot too – I get that GT is trying to work out who makes the cut but it’s disheartening to say the least.

    • Agree but Horne does generally play his best rugby off the bench.
      Looks like Sebastian and Bayliss in pole position for the final slots-“theirs to lose” I think.
      So seems Dobie,Walker and Crosbie almost certainly out.Just a question of who will be the unfortunate hooker to drop out. Ashman? (though neither he or Cherry can do anything about it now in a match situation before the final 33 announced next week.)

    • Hi Dest, I agree with you but GT has never been bothered about diseartening his players as his ego blinds him to the consequences of his decisions as he truely believes that he is a world class and visionary coach. Man management is certainly not a skill he has and he has always picked and dropped players at will which will always be known disparagingly as Toony Tombola

      • I fear for Cherry who I think should be nailed on to travel and is the only one of our pool of hookers who consistently delivers all the basics of the job. Cherry’s top end in some areas may not be as strong as others (e.g. Turner’s ball carrying) but he is easily the most reliable, performs when needed and seems to scrum effectively. IMO he should at a minimum be on the bench through the WC.

      • Yep some players are continually picked no matter how badly they perform and some are routinely dropped and ignored now matter how well they play. No player really enjoys that (unless they are in the chosen few). A big reason why we should not have extended his contract until after RWC. We have missed a great opportunity with Crowley becoming available.


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