RWC23: Scotland v France: Finn Russell to captain Scots

Regular skipper Jamie Ritchie is missing with a calf injury

Finn Russell will captain Scotland against France on Saturday afternoon. Image: © Craig Watson -
Finn Russell will captain Scotland against France on Saturday afternoon. Image: © Craig Watson -

FINN RUSSELL will captain Scotland against France at Murrayfield on Saturday, with head coach Gregor Townsend naming a strong but not quite full-strength team for the second of four warm-up matches leading into this Autumn’s World Cup.

Regular skipper Jamie Ritchie is out with a calf injury (he is expected back next week).

The side features 13 changes to the side which beat Italy last weekend. Darcy Graham, who score a brace against Italy, is retained on the wing, while Matt Fagerson shifts from No 8 to blindside flanker.

Inside-centre Sione Tuipulotu and second-row Grant Gilchrist are the vice-captains.

Rory Darge, who led Scotland against, is one of five forwards named as replacements, with Dave Cherry, Jamie Bhatti, WP Nel and Scott Cummings listed as forward options, with backs George Horne, Cameron Redpath and Ollie Smith completing the matchday 23.


Scotland (v France at Scottish Gas Murrayfield, Saturday 3.15pm): D Kinghorn; D Graham, H Jones, S Tuipulotu (VC), D van der Merwe; F Russell©, B White; P Schoeman, E Ashman, Z Fagerson, R Gray, G Gilchrist (VC), M Fagerson, H Watson, J Dempsey. Substitutes: D Cherry, J Bhatti, W Nel, S Cummings, R Darge, G Horne, C Redpath, O Steyn.

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RWC23: Scotland v France: “I’ve still got another two World Cups in me” – Finn Russell

RWC23: Hamish Watson out to make up for lost time

About David Barnes 3663 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. I can’t remember the team ever having so many home-based players and so few exiles – 11 Glasgow Warriors, 9 Edinburgh, just 3 Exiles.

    A good sign of the current strength of the home teams and I boxes well for next season.

  2. Is Townsend going to let Russel off the leash, recognising that the only way to beat South Africa and/or Ireland is through Finnsanity. If so then go all in with Kinghorn and George Horne and resurrect the ‘fastest rugby in the world’.

  3. So, the hatchet is finally buried. Making F.R. captain could be a truly brilliant master stroke by G.T. We will have to wait and see but there is just the soupçon of a suspicion that F.R.’s French playing credentials and knowledge could just tip the balance in Scotland’s favour.

  4. Not sure Ritchie is nailed on at blindside.

    He’s a great player but quite alot like Darge and Watson.

    Crosbie is different. He might make a late run.

    • The potential Saturday has for Finn to take great advantage of being captain and owning the opportunity of responsibility is huge. The freedom this can provide him which he is also eager for as he thrives on it is a big moment for Scottish Rugby towards a new approach in how it manages and chooses to dominate games.

    • Anyone else think Crosbie seems to have lost the edge he had when he first came in .. thought he was disappointing for Edinburgh in the tale end of the season as well ….?

    • I really like Ritchie as openside, or at least with a two big ball carriers alongside him. He’s such a clever player and his link play out wide is outstanding, when he’s freed from the blindside chores.
      I’d like to see Mish on the bench, and coming on for the last 20/25 minutes against tiring defences, when his immense strength can tear holes, but I feel his link play slows the tempo down when he starts at 7.

  5. No one knows like we do how Scotland are most effective – fast, smart, chaotic, brilliant. Unlike Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa – we dont win games with physicality. In order for Scotland to get out of the group we need to play whats infront of us and Finn Russell is the key to that. he doesnt only unlock that door, but that of a ramapaging Dempsey, an effective centre pairing of Huwipoluto and makes just about every other player on that park wearing a thistle better. We as a rugby side have to accept that forward phase play and matching up with teams physically aint going to happen. the way we win games is with kicks, fast thinking, smart offloads, opportunistic madness and with a 10 wearing the letters RUSSELL across his back.

    Love the look of that team. it reaks of chaos, lightening pace, youth, experience, and a sore head on Sunday after watching Scotland do Scotland. rip up the rugby rule book, FR10 is in attendance and dont we just love it.

  6. Hamish didn’t set the heather on fire last year coming back from injury, so plenty of competition in the back row. Bayliss did well in his brief appearance last week.

    • Don’t see anything depressing, 13 qualify to play for Scotland as they would have done in my days.

      • The Union’s principal objective should be to promote the uptake of the sport within the nation. When it has to call on 8 players trained by other Unions to fulfil a starting 15 then serious questions have to be asked about whether or not it is fulfilling its mission. What will take the field at the weekend is a Scottish themed Barbarians side. It’s an embarrassing position to be in when the captain of Argentina is heard openly mocking us on the ref mic – “maybe if I say it in Afrikaans you’ll understand”. That gives you an insight as to how we are perceived.

        The ultimate point is this: for every player selected who was trained outwith Scotland, there will be homegrown equivalents who, for various reasons, were phased out of the equation and failed by the SRU. This is apparently the age of inclusivity. Yet, less and less homegrown youngsters will ever stand a chance of playing for their country.

      • Franck, that’s just nonsense, with only 2 Scottish based teams, to get our best talent enough high level game time, the reality is that a large percentage have to earn their money abroad – because remember they are professionals and this is their living.

        Not to mention that in the home based scenario, during the Autumn and 6-Nations, they Glasgow and Edinburgh would be gutted (as they still largely are …)

    • Yes rugby is a relatively tertiary pursuit in Scotland.

      It has its goldfish bowls in the borders and Edinburgh schools but it’s probably unreasonable to expect them to produce a factory line. They’re not huge.

      We’ve always relied on anglos and sqp to make up numbers

  7. Interesting to see FR as captain! He obviously has bags of experience and is at the centre of decision making.

    Given the wee tiff and his age, time to shine (which he has done plenty before)

  8. Are we entering the realms of the absurd, with the daft laddie being handed the armband? Time will tell, but Toony certainly promised us a bold selection – and perhaps this is it for there are no other surprises in the team. It could be inspired. Will be interested to see how young Blair goes at full back, for we know well his great attacking skills but his catching and tackling must also improve. The presence of Smith on the bench and no cover at 10 suggests that the Edinburgh lad may well slot in at stand-off during the latter stages, but that particular project has been tested to destruction and perhaps Toony’s greatest fault is to persist with failed experiments. There will be the mother of all scraps between the Mish and Darge to see who eventually ends up with the seven jersey, while Redpath is a welcome inclusion on the bench. It is only right that he is never far from the team and I look forward to him developing a deep understanding at Bath next year with Finn inside him. Lucky, lucky Bath. Ashman too must always be in our best 23 and the move north will help him to establish himself there. We should have beaten the French last time, so I expect tails to be up with a partisan crowd behind the boys. Go Scotland!

  9. will be interesting to see how that back row go. no Ritchie but his form dipped in the 6N since becoming captain so this for me on paper is our 1st choice

    • Not sure if Mish is a first choice starter anymore. A fantastic player up till a couple of seasons ago but arguably lost his form a bit recently so back row still a bit of a conundrum with Ritchie presumably still captain and therefore an automatic pick. I could well see Fagerson, Dempsey and then Ritchie at open-side being the preferred option with Darge on the bench, certainly for SA and Ireland.

  10. Not seriously suggesting Horne is ahead of White?
    With respect White was excellent in the 6N and Horne was,perhaps unfairly supplanted by price for the bench spot midway through.

    • Watch again…our best passages of play were with Horne. White was good but Horne provided much quicker service from the ruck. Once he was dropped we struggled. Horne had ruck speed at under 2 seconds which we will need to have any chance at all against SA & Ireland. When we let defences have time to reset we struggle to break them down (Ireland in 6n being a prime example). Glasgow played their best rugby when Horne was on the park. I think it was BBC that did a comparison between service with Horne and White and there was no ambiguity Horne was much quicker and more accurate. Horne is better for the players outside of him and his try scoring record is second only to Darcy. Ireland and SA will be delighted if he’s not on the park.

  11. I think the selection at 6 can be attributed to GT not knowing who his first-choice Number 8 is. Ritchie is nailed on at blindside and by the looks of things he wants a better look at Fagerson and Dempsey before making a decision.

  12. Sounds a little harsh on Ritchie but other than swapping Horne for White this looks close to strongest we can put out.

    • I think the selection at 6 is because GT doesn’t yet know who his first-choice Number 8 is going to be. Ritchie is nailed on at blindside but by the looks of things he wants to get as much of a look at Fagerson and Dempsey as possible.

    • I assume Ritchie will still be captain come world cup (If fit) – but a good idea to look at all the areas where an option may be required – this all makes good sense to me.

      This looks like a pretty strong team – will give us a good idea where we stand – because let’s face it, we have our work cut out to beat either Ireland or South Africa. I wonder if our best chance is to come out all guns blazing against SA in the first game … certainly not a slow start please !!

      • While i expect Ritchie to be back in, its going to be a tough back row selection. get the pitch forks out but for me, i wouldnt have him in the best available 15.

        Just my opinion, you know where the dislike button is !


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