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.
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.