RWC23: Scotland v Romania: Gregor Townsend names team for penultimate pool clash

Grant Gilchrist set to captain the side which features 13 changes from Tonga match

Grant Gilchrist will captain Scotland against Tonga in Lille on Saturday night. Image: © Craig Watson -
Grant Gilchrist will captain Scotland against Tonga in Lille on Saturday night. Image: © Craig Watson -

GREGOR TOWNSEND has made 13 changes to the side he sent out against Tonga last weekend for Scotland’s penultimate World Cup pool match against Romania in Lille on Saturday evening.

Scotland need to win this game with a bonus point to give themselves a fighting chance against Ireland next Saturday of getting a result which can see them progress to the quarter-finals of this World Cup. They are up against a Romania side who have been heavily beaten in both their games so far, 82-8 by Ireland on the opening weekend of the tournament and 76-0 by South Africa a fortnight ago.

Outside-centre Chris Harris and winger Kyle Steyn are the two survivors from last weekend. Tight-head prop Javan Sebastian, flankers Luke Crosbie and Hamish Watson, and stand-off Ben Healy all start for their first minutes of the tournament. Second-row Grant Gilchrist captains the side.

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Among the replacements, hooker Johnny Matthews is in line to make his Scotland debut having been called into the squad earlier in the week to replace Stuart McInally.

“There’s players who deserve an opportunity to play in this World Cup, players who have been training extremely well and are outstanding individual players, so we feel this is the right time to give them that opportunity,” said Townsend. “Obviously, with a six-day turnaround, too, we want the freshest possible team to build on that victory we had against Tonga.

“Grant Gilchrist was vice-captain in our opening game so he will now captain the side,” the head coach added. “He’s done that a lot with Edinburgh and with Scotland in the past, and he brings a lot of emotion and going to make sure that we’re primed and ready to go.

“But all our players are ready. They’re in great physical shape. We had to wait a long time to play our second game [at this World Cup] so this one came round really quickly, and you can tell in training that we’re ready to go again.

“It has been a bit of a whirlwind for Johnny [Matthews] and I think the temperature change was the biggest shock to him. But he’s a great character, he was on tour with us in Argentina and Chile just over a year ago and he obviously knows the Glasgow guys really well, so it is a great game for him to come off the bench and show his strengths, which are around the set-piece but in particular the speed and pace he brings onto the ball. I’m sure he’ll get the opportunity to carry at the weekend.

“Romania are a dangerous team if you don’t go about your job the way we know we can do, and the way we have been training. They’ll be better from having two games against the number one and number two teams in the world. Romanians are always a very proud rugby nation, they are very strong physically and they are excellent around set-piece, so we can’t take them lightly. But a lot of what we do will be about us and the standards we set in our training, and where we believe we are as a rugby team. Now we’ve got to deliver an 80 minute performance this weekend.”


Scotland (versus Romania on Saturday @ Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, kick-off 8pm GMT): O Smith; D Graham, C Harris, C Redpath, K Steyn; B Healy, A Price; J Bhatti, E Ashman, J Sebastian, S Skinner, G Gilchrist ©, L Crosbie, H Watson (VC), M Fagerson.  Substitutes: J Matthews, R Sutherland, W Nel, S Cummings, R Darge, G Horne, B Kinghorn, H Jones.

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About David Barnes 4026 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. Well done Scotland. Now it’s all down to the eighty minutes against Ireland. You’ve got to be fit, you’ve got to be fast, but most of all, you’ve got to believe.I BELIEVE. Come on you “Flooers”

  2. No matter who wears the shirt they’ll be giving it everything for their family, for their country, for the coaching team and for their own pride. Surely we can do the same and get behind every player and coach carrying our hopes and dreams. Come on SCOTLAND.

    • Could not agree more,mate! Like most people who pontificate on this site (Mr Milne excepted) I never got near to pulling on the blue jersey. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but let’s put them aside for a couple of hours tonight and give the lads all the support we can!
      Alba gu brath!

  3. Harris is a good player. A British Lion.
    Never understood why some fans are so down on him.
    He brings aggression, work rate, competitiveness and organisation to the team. He’s a player who can reliably fly out of the line and kill an attack with a big tackle or chase down a line break. Not many players can do that. These things are important and have been integral to some big Scottish wins – remember France 2021? He also runs some good angles in attack and has scored tries for Scotland as a 1st receiver.

    You’d think he’s some kind of mug from some of the comments on here.

    • If you don’t understand why people are critical of Chris Harris then you clearly not a fan of attacking rugby.

      His inability to make the correct decision under pressure once a line-break has been made is really bad, so many attacking moves have been butchered. Simply put, he is an outstanding international quality defensive player, and an amateur level attacking player.

      With the deadliest backline in Scottish Rugby’s History Inside and outside of him, that’s why people get annoyed.

      He will look good tomorrow, but do remember it’s Romania…

    • Agreed. Not just Harris who’s the subject of endless and at times spiteful sniping. Kinghorn, Hogg before him, Price, Zander F are all targeted regularly. A bit more positivity would be welcome. Concentrate on what players can do well, not what they (allegedly) can’t do.

  4. As a few have already stated, are we lurching towards a Harris at 13 selection against Ireland? We could be reading into this all wrong, maybe Toony is keeping Jones primed and fit for the big one against Ireland, or maybe not.

    For me Jones has to start against Ireland, along with Fickou he was the pick of the 13’s in the six nations and was brilliant all tournament. To have any chance against Ireland we need every ounce of x factor we can muster….

    • Townsend will be looking to attack against the Irish. The only area to defend will be the lead. Therefore Jones is more thank likely to start. The backs replacements are still up for grabs. Get the job done Saturday and then let the fun begin.

      I hope for a sea of blue in Paris of Scottish supporters. The impact of the noise made by us even before kickoff in the stadium is a massive factor. We need to make our voices heard and make our selves be known. Look at the impact of this at Twickenham recently. Isnt it time to create a new culture at games of rallying the boys and girls on by singing songs which radiate the energy?

    • Darcy Graham aside and baring injuries, I’d be surprised if any of the starting 15 this week start next week. I think its more about who can play themselves on to the bench.

  5. Very much looking forward to seeing Johnny Mathews getting a well deserved 1st cap, a Boroughmuir legend & consistently underrated player who will not let Scotland down

  6. Selection seems to be hedging our bets about Ritchie coming back for the Ireland game by giving Darge and Matt Fagerson game time. I’m actually OK with this selection I know that Kinghorn hasn’t been perfect but is still the best option overall vs Ireland.

  7. Really. Well its all about opinions. Our back row were second best against SA who were subsequently destroyed at the breakdown by Ireland.

  8. Only change I’m hoping for is more accuracy going forward over the last thirty minutes. Scotland need to hurt teams in that period.

  9. I’m hoping – but not totally convinced – that Toonie knows what his preferred midfield is. I can just see him opting for Harris vs Ireland thinking that’s the best way to stop Ireland scoring and getting within 7. And will be easy for Harris to seemingly impress vs Romania. I actually quite like what Harris brings, I just think along with many others that Jones is a better option for the way we play.

    • Harris sold the second try against Tonga and did as usual nothing at all going forward. We concede fewer tries without him.

  10. Not far from what I expected , wanted to see the Harris/Redpath at Center, wanted to Steyn and Graham on the wing with Smith. Good to see Javan get a start and Mathews on the bench really pleased about that. Should be a win then onto the big one. It was a fair chance that everyone would get a run during the campaign and Romania was looked on as the easiest game to give the not quite there guys a run out.

    • Hopefully Smith puts in big performance, kinghorns half hearted attempts under the high ball & tackling a concern.

  11. Is there a scenario where we would only go through if we had more match points than Ireland over all the matches? If so, this selection is risky. Also, Horne scores tries!!! Why is he not starting?

    • We need a bonus point win here and then must beat Ireland by more than 7 points. Thats the only way we can qualify.

  12. Win, bonus point, then we consider the next game.
    GT does love Harris, otherwise and generally I’m pretty happy ish as to where we are presently.
    Happy for the boys making their WC debut.
    What I’d like to happen is for GT to REALLY think/consider how we are going to beat Ireland (I can see another spirited but loss where we don’t land a blow)

  13. Would love to see Hamish Watson and Luke Crosbie having stormers and provide a Townsend with a selection headache. Ritchie has not performed at his best since the captaincy but I can’t see him getting dropped if he gets over the concussion protocols. It’s a duel between Gilco and Cummings for the 5 spot next week, let’s hope they get 40 minutes a piece. Bonus point is a must this game and I think most of the tries will come through the forwards.

    • .. however having a stormer against Romania… doesn’t equate to being propelled into play the worlds current no.1 side… watson would last 40 mins and can only play 7.. not much use for the 23 v Ireland … Crosbie last 40 mins before getting reinjured.

      • Crosbie and Watson would both only last 40 minutes – what on earth are you basing that on? What a bizarre thing to write.

    • Apart from Dempsey none of the back row have covered themselves in glory. Unfortunately even an outstanding performance from any of the selected 3 will not result in them moving up the pecking order as its only against Romania. One of Townsends many faults is his inability to determine when one of his go to men is off form and drop him.


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