RWC23: South Africa v Scotland: Zander Fagerson returns for World Cup opener

Stuart McInally flies to France as back-up for injured Ewan Ashman but has not joined the squad

Zander Fagerson will start at tight-head prop for Scotland versus South Africa on Sunday evening. Image: © Craig Watson -
Zander Fagerson will start at tight-head prop for Scotland versus South Africa on Sunday evening. Image: © Craig Watson -

ZANDER FAGERSON has been brought straight back into Scotland’s starting XV – as expected – for Sunday’s World Cup opener against South Africa in Marseilles, having complete the two match suspension he picked up for being red-carded against France last month.

Darcy Graham is, as was reported earlier in the week, fit again following his minor quad injury to start on the left wing, while head coach Gregor Townsend has gone for a five-three split between forwards and backs on the bench, as opposed to mimicking the Springbok strategy of super-charging their pack during the second half with a six-two split.

Jack Dempsey gets the nod as starting No 8 with Matt Fagerson covering the back-row from the bench, Scott Cummings edges out Sam Skinner as replacement second-row, and Dave Cherry is back-up hooker with Ewan Ashman recovering from an injury picked up in training this week. Stuart McInally has flown out as back-up but has not joined the 33-player squad.  There is no room in the squad for veteran flanker Hamish Watson or in-form Kyle Steyn.

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Scotland (versus South Africa on Sunday @ Stade de Marseille, kick-off 4.45pm): B Kinghorn; D Graham, H Jones, S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; F Russell, B White; P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson, R Gray, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, R Darge, J Dempsey.  Substitutes: D Cherry, J Bhatti, W Nel, S Cummings, M Fagerson, A Price, C Redpath, O Smith.

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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. Erasmus at it again calling the ref night before match rumors??….wouldn’t surprise me ..
    here we go … lots of penalties and 5o/50s against us… down to 13 … etc..

  2. Its looking very warm in France and I don’t think that helps us. Oh well we’ll find out soon! Time so show what we can do.

  3. Great team, I’d give it 9.5 out of ten. Every single one of those backs is a potential match-winner and in my view our line carries a definite edge over the South Africans. Surprised by the 5-3 split on the bench, but Townsend has obviously had time to study the Bok team sheet and signalled – loud and clear – that he will play his own game rather than pander to anyone else’s. Clearly the plan is to move Kinghorn to 10 if Finn goes off – slightly unnerving, for that is not his great strength – while I’m disappointed to see Ali Price on the bench. Horne offers so much more with his pace of delivery and threat going forward but ids concussed, so oh for a Jamie Dobie on the squad. Redpath has the guile to carve holes in even the best defences, so no let-off if he comes on. Among the forwards, I suspect there will be one Afrikaans speaker on the pitch at all times! Fagerson carries more ballast on the bench as the back row replacement and as expected there is no room for the Mish now that Darge is established as the supreme jackal in the seven jersey. Ritchie needs to keep his temper and I’m not yet convinced that he is captaincy material. For better or worse, our boys will give it everything they have, leaving absolutely nothing in the tank. Go Scotland, gie ’em laldie!

  4. Loving the France v NZL game but why do I have to watch it through the prism of English voices telling me what to think. Really enjoy Ben on co-comms but so tired of people from another country describing what I can already see from an entirely English perspective. I understand the logistics of World Cup broadcasting but it seems that the views of a long-retired English women’s player carries more weight than men from the home countries other than England who have actually experienced this level of competition. Sound off.

  5. Cannot believe Horne isn’t on the bench at least. He’s so obviously the in-form s/half that one has to believe there’s something petty going on here. Anyone know if Horne and Toonie have history?

    • Tom English back in 2019. “George Horne’s capacity to cut holes in defences is clear, but it’s only when you put his statistics in context that you get an angle on how ruthless the scrum-half can be.”

  6. If we played them 10 times in a row, I think we’d win 3 (maybe 4), so we have more than a punchers chance.
    Simply put, if we give away more than 10 penalties, we have no chance, as the Saffas will simply kick it into the corner, and grind us down through the mail/scrums (like they did with the Kiwis two weeks ago). Same goes for handling errors.
    However, if we can keep the ball in play time high, and give their pack some kind of resistance, then we have the backs to hurt them.
    C’mon the lads! 🙏🏻💪🏻

  7. GT is a far better coach now than he was 4 years ago, he appears to have learnt lessons. (Or has luck had a big part to pay)
    I truely hope he Scotland can take the next step.
    Re the selections I’d have had Healy in the 23 as Kinghorn is not to be trusted at 10 or with kicking duties.
    Smith is in incase Finn has to go off (that is 100% worst case scenario for Scotland)
    Makes little sense having Price in front of Horne
    (Also only having 1 kicking option in the 23 is interesting).
    However overall positive, we have to beat SA or Ireland (and Romania and Tonga) to progress so…… COME ON SCOTLAND

  8. GT normally perplexes me with this his selection…but this time I like his selection. We are much more suited to a 5/3 bench split than the 6/2 SA go for…so glad we didn’t try to match up and makes a statement we are looking to play our own game.

    Glad he selected Redpath… the Boks don’t know much about him and he could be a difference maker when he comes on…and Smith looks a quality FB to me…has barely put a foot wrong since playing test level.

    Only worry is that if Russell goes down and Kinghorn has to kick.

    Bring them on…..

  9. Obviously sheer luck comes into it, but credit has to go to the conditioning staff and physios, that they are be going into the first match with everyone available after 4 tough warm up matches. Pretty impressive.

  10. Let us hope that Zander behaves himself. If not, it should be a case of three strikes and you’re out. Agree re Price and Ashman,

    Hope the next World Cup rankings are not too geared to performance at this World Cup.

  11. I’ve criticised Toony as much as most, but given it’s the same XV that I would’ve picked, I’ll let him off with the subs.

  12. Lunacy to not have Horne starting but worse to not have him on the bench. No idea what else he needs to do to be picked. We won’t move their pack around quickly enough without him. Equally not sure how out of form Price would need to be to not make squad.

  13. Obvious starting 15 – interesting bench calls. 5:2 makes sense, why follow the Boks? I agree Price is the odd choice. Also how do you tire a team that will simply replace virtually the whole pack? Really rooting for them and hope we don’t sustain any critical injuries, or stupid red cards.

  14. Totally agree with comments made as seriously what impact will a box kick specialist scrum half give you against a teram that thrives on possession and grinding teams into the dust. Tooney still perplexes with his selections as likerwise Smith is the safe defensive 15 but is not an impact player whereas Kinghorn certainly is an impact player but not safe defensively. I hope Townsends constant tinkering and obvious “favourites” such as Ashman who has not impressed does not derail another world cup. We can only live in hope.

  15. Price not Horne?? So much for upping the tempo and running the big Boks forwards off their feet as the match progresses. I just don’t get that one at all. Don’t really know what George has to do to get a start.

  16. Much as I would expect , except for Price. OK he was a success with the Lions in South Africa but he has been poor since then and Horne brings a dynamism neither White nor Price bring. Roll on Sunday cannot wait.

  17. Surprising no 6:2 bench split in hot conditions against the Boks, and also surprising no George Horne who has changed each of the summer games when he came on. Not really sure what Price or Smith offer as impact players personally.

    But hey ho, lets go!

  18. Good luck is the obvious call for the lads, although I can’t help but think the must win game is against Ireland, providing there are no slip ups in the other fixtures.

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