USA v Scotland: all change for tourists as Gregor Townsend turns to the tried and tested

Gregor Townsend. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Gregor Townsend has rung the changes in his Scotland team to play the USA. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

GREGOR Townsend has selected a completely new Scotland line-up to face the United States on Friday night, reverting to something far closer to his first-choice line-up than the one which took the field against Canada last week.

Several of those involved in the 73-12 win in Ottawa are selected again and will start on the bench, but the starting 15 is a far more experienced one than began that match.

While there were five new caps from the start against Canada and another five debutants off the bench, the bulk of this selection were first picks in the Six Nations, while the others have also got a reasonable amount of Test experience under their belts.


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Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu return as the midfield partnership, while their Glasgow team-mates Adam Hastings and George Horne form the half-back pairing that has a fair chance of being Franco Smith’s first choice for the Warriors next season.

“Adam has missed out on some opportunities that he probably would have got,” Townsend said of the stand-off’s return to the international arena. “He was a key player for us who had played a number of games and was growing and developing as a 10, as you do as you get older.

“To miss out on the chance to be involved in the World Cup, to have a couple of injuries this year as well, it’s great to see him back. He brings a real energy, on and off the field. He’s been training very well and he’s got his opportunity this week.”

The pack, like the back division, has a wealth of experience. Edinburgh pair Pierre Schoeman and Ewan Ashman return to the front row, Scott Cummings is one of the locks, and a particularly strong back row sees Jamie Ritchie come in for his 50th cap alongside Rory Darge and Matt Fagerson.

Fagerson and Kyle Steyn are the two members of the starting 15 who were also involved off the bench last weekend. All eight replacements took part in the Canada game.

“It’s a more experienced team, obviously, with 10 new caps last week,” the head coach added. “But those 10 new caps and the wider 23 put a really good marker down out of what we expect in our performance, what we expect in the detail of our game. It’s up to these players to take that to another level.”

Last week’s game against Canada was a pretty low-key affair compared to the day’s other Test matches involving Six Nations sides, and the USA fixture will be cast in a similar light given the weekend’s other matches include Ireland’s rematch with world champions South Africa and England’s game against New Zealand. Scotland’s tour is also set to continue in similar fashion, with games in Chile and Uruguay.

However, when asked if he would rather have a game against one of the Southern Hemisphere’s big three at the end, Townsend insisted there was a value in this tour of the Americas.

“Look, we’ve known we were always going to be doing this summer tour and we’ve got to embrace and make the most out of what’s ahead of us,” he said. “We’ll get opportunities to play the top Southern-Hemisphere teams in November and obviously we have the Six Nations every year.

“What we attempted to do with this tour is extend it to give more players an opportunity and make it a proper tour of four weeks rather than two. 

“One of the learnings we had from the Six Nations is when we are favourites for games how disciplined we are with our focus on what’s working well for us and how we can continue that. The Italy game was one in which we didn’t do that well, so that’s one challenge for us over the next few weeks.

“But it’s also a big opportunity to give players game time. It’s been a long season for a lot of our players with the World Cup, preparation and games, last July and August, so some players are getting a chance to refresh ahead of next year, which allows us to look at the likes of Patrick Harrison and the three 10s that are getting game-time now.

“So we see it as a big positive at this time in the cycle. We don’t get huge opportunities to increase the playing depth because you are really picking your best 15 when you are playing games in November and in the Six Nations, but now we are bringing players into Test rugby and hopefully they grab that opportunity.”

Scotland (v USA at Audi Field, Washington, DC, Friday 11.30pm BST): K Rowe; K Steyn (co-captain), H Jones, S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, G Horne; P Schoeman, E Ashman, M Walker, A Craig, S Cummings, J Ritchie, R Darge (co-captain), M Fagerson.

Replacements: R Smith, R Sutherland, E Millar Mills, M Williamson, L Crosbie, J Dobie, R Thompson, M Currie.

About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

35 Comments

  1. Agree that this is an odd team given the circumstances and does somewhat suggest coach nervousness of a banana skin.

    It’s also (with this selection) a bit of a no-win situation now;

    – If we stuff the US (as we should) everyone just shrugs and says ‘so what, USA lost to Romania the other week’ / a load of senior players who’ve had a long season get more game time they don’t really need / we don’t learn much about most of the team that we didn’t already know.
    – If however our near full-strength team struggle against a fired-up USA, it’s going to look bad / dent team confidence ahead of the autumn internationals and next 6N / not do anything for our wider reputation and hopes of landing future summer tours of the big boys and top nations – instead of “an exciting summer 2025 development tour opportunity to blood young and emerging players around the unsung Benelux rugby nations (with additional match against the mighty Monaco outside of the international window)”.

    All that aside, just hoping for a slick performance from the lads, that Hastings shows up well at 10 before heading back to Warriors (i.e. doesn’t needlessly run the ball into contact and lose possession too often!), a good shift from Alex Craig, and no injuries.

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    • This is opportunity for development. We should not lose any of these so give the big boys respite/recovery time. Should have gone with more of the first pick experiment with newbies (and Hutchison has been poorly treated) should have been given chance. What do we learn from thumping usa?

  2. I don’t get the 2 co-captains and 2 vice captains thing, it just gives the impression of confusion. The natural leaders will do their thing anyway. I’d have been tempted to reward Steyn at Captain for this one after what he’s done at Glasgow this season.

    • Agreed. All very well to have various “leaders” in good teams, but this naming of co-captains & vice-captains appears nonsensical.

  3. the elephant in the room is none of the big boys wanted toplay Scotland and yet again we have a watered down summer tour so we call it a development tour which is great. Then why oh why take and pick basically our 1st xv to play USA and I agree that Gregor is running scared and doesnt want egg on his face again. It is embarassing that he feels that he needs to that and then all home again. Oh Gregor please just go and get another job and not use 4 wins against very weak opposition to improve your win stats to show how good you really are not.

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      • no never liked him as a player and even less so as a coach and face facts he has failed to take Scotland forward despite the millions upon millions of pounds Dobson sanctioned trying to buy success. Failed miserably at two world cups and hes still in post, why? Failed in the 6N when England and Wales have never been weaker in years.

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  4. I am confused -easy many will say-but if this is a development tour why are Jones and Tuipolotu touring -they are our no 1 centre pairing, have done great deeds for Glasgow and are recent fathers so leaving them behind and taking Redpath and Hutchison as well as McDowell would make more sense. So in some ways George is right it’s a development tour but we can’t afford to lose a game.
    Also as I think the 4th game is outside the test window we will lose the non Scottish players so not much time for Hurd, Johnston, and a few others to show what the can do.
    Finally my biggest beef is not starting Dobie as 9-such a tragedy as he could be something really special. Maybe he should go back to Hawkes Bay and play in NPC, much more enjoyable than switching around or sitting on a bench

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    • Dobie played a full game last week, probably gets 30 muns this week. I’d imagine he gets a rest next week with Warr and Horne playing, then starts at 9 against Chile. That’s not a bad run for the tour.
      Totally agree about Glasgow centers, Jones is 30 with a poor injury record a summer off may have been a good idea if we are hoping he makes next RWC.

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    • Agree that Tuipulotu and Jones seems a bit too conservative in the context of this tour. I do feel Hutchinson has been overlooked in the past but he’s even fallen out of favour at Saints so unfortunately, I can’t see him making much impact internationally now so Redpath would have been the obvious choice in place of at least one of our first pick centres. Back row doesn’t have much “development tour” about it and feel plenty of others would benefit from a chance to shine – Bradbury, Muncaster, Doyle to name just 3. However, at least Hastings has an opportunity to prove he still has what it takes and great that Alex Craig is selected too. In fact, we do seem to be developing some depth in most positions other than prop, especially TH. A convincing win is a must having picked such a strong 23.

  5. I do get that Scotland have ended up with a development tour this summer and it was great to see the youngster playing and doing so well. Great also for them to touring with some top pick guys so they are exposed to that too. The selection of such a strong 3/4 line looks a little heavy handed in that context and wonder if there wasn’t an opportunity to mix that up and give some youngsters a chance to play alongside some first picks. Get that as players they will need/want some game time just unsure what we learn playing them as a unit. Will watch with keen interest as ever.

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  6. It’s a development tour but dropping Patterson after that display doesn’t sit right. GT is quite bad for this and I don’t think it’s great for players to play well and be dropped, especially when so many can be terrible and keep getting picked. Do get we can’t afford to lose on the tour as it will really hurt the rankings, but still players should be allowed to learn that performance is the key to the jersey not ones face fitting.

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    • He hasn’t been ‘dropped’, and neither have the other 14 players – these are end-of-season summer matches and this tour in particular is for experimentation and trying different things.

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    • Yes a Development tour means that everyone gets plenty game time so a new 15 starts. No ones been dropped.

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    • Entirely predictable tea. Don’t worry,I’m sure Paterson will start against Uragauy.
      And I’m sure that cheek/eye injury needs at least another week to heel with the soft tissues involved.

    • Do you actually watch any rugby? Can’t you comprehend the idea that this type of end of season tour is being used to experiment and players aren’t being dropped?

  7. I’d have played Paterson, perhaps Currie and Dobie in the backs and in the forwards Williamson but hey ho

  8. Ouch, that’s a step up in terms of international experience and having lost to Romania the Americans are in line for a tough evening. Great to see Alex Craig back in national colours. I love his aggression and he’s been away too long. A long time away for Hastings Junior too and I look forward to seeing him back in the saddle. There needs to be keen competition at ten and next season will be instructive in that respect. Hope that Harry Paterson gets more game time on tour, for he was outstanding and his talent needs to be used. Another one who’s been injured for a while, but not a sign of rust anywhere. Walker needs to show what he can do, for there will be stiff competition from Miller-Mills and Hurd in days to come.

  9. Townsend scared of losing to the USA again so has decided to go with the full noise team (from the players we took obviously). Expecting a win here and some of the less experienced players to get some more valuable experience in the test arena.

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      • George, except its not a fact its a biased opinion. The constant sniping at Townsend regardless of what he does is boring

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        • it isn’t a biased opinion though, it is a fact he is worried about losing against the USA again. Its not a record he wants, no one would. This can be clearly seen by playing such a strong squad. If he wasn’t afraid then he would have been more experimental. There is nothing wrong with protecting yourself from an unwanted record. Everyone else would do it in his shoes.

          I will give Townsend praise when he deserves it and be critical when he deserves it. There is nothing to praise or be critical about in this selection.

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          • If it’s fact, Townsend would say “I’m scared of losing to the USA” which he wouldn’t.

            They wouldn’t be professional sportspeople if they were “scared”. They look forward to challenging themselves – even if it is the Springboks.

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            • No head coach would ever say that he was scared of losing to another team you would never admit it, especially to the press. A head coach from a Tier 1 nation admitting they were scared of losing to a Tier 2 nation is a sure way to get a P45 from their employers.

              Your second point is nonsense everyone gets scared even people involved in professional sports. A coach will get scared if there is a chance that they gain a damaging reputation/record. Losing to the USA twice would be damaging. Once is an unfortunate off day twice is an issue.

              As I said Townsend has put out his strongest team to do all he can to ensure that he doesn’t lose because it would damage his reputation badly. If I were in his shoes I would do the same as would yourself. It isn’t a criticism to say that he is playing it safe. It is just a fact.

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          • George, so we have gone from scared to worried. Neither if which Townsend has actually said, so it’s not a fact its your opinion.
            He has said from the start that all players would play, some played last week, some this.

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            • in this context scared and worried are pretty synonymous. Read my comment to Chris. He can’t admit to being scared/worried/petrified/another word of your choosing because it would get him fire. He has to restore his reputation by beating them because he is the only Scotland coach to lose to them. That is why he is playing his strongest team. Head Coaches will never tell the whole story, especially to the press. Its being naive to say that it cant be a fact because the coach didnt admit it to the press.

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              • Don’t confuse being nervous with scared or worried.

                I’m playing Australia at the Touch WC next week. A team that rarely lose. Am I nervous – yes. Am I scared – no.

                • Okay. Good luck with your game against Australia.

                  Townsend is still scared about damaging his reputation, especially as if he doesn’t win a tournament soon he will lose his job. However, if he wins the 6 Nations or breaks the All Blacks duck we have I will be first to praise him and say that he should be given a bit more time.

      • I would imagine you are getting the down votes because of your supposed mind-reading skills. But that’s just an opinion because I can tell the difference between a fact and an opinion.

  10. 15. Kyle Rowe CC
    14. Kyle Steyn VC
    13.Huw Jones CC
    12. Sione Tuipulotu VC
    11. Duhan van der Merwe CC
    10. Donald Findlay QC
    9. George Horne CC

    1. Pierre Schoeman VC
    2. Ewan Ashman CC
    3. Murphy Walker CC
    4. Alex Craig ­CC
    5. Scott Cummings BBC
    6. Jamie Ritchie CCTV
    7. Rory Darge CC
    8. Matt Fagerson QVC

    Getting a bit much the whole vc, cc thing just name a guy as skipper and be done with it – amateurish and gross

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    • It’s actually the opposite of ‘amateurish’. It’s professional and recognises the leadership group in a semi-official manner. 21st century now believe it or not!

      • Why on earth does the leadership group need to be recognised semi officially? surely they know who they are?

        Best tell the other nations who are out there winning world cups and grand slams how to be professional and in keeping with leadership group team sheet admin..can i tell them? pleeeeaaase??

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