Scotland v New Zealand: Finn Russell starts as Townsend makes three changes

Sione Tuipulotu and Fraser Brown also added to home line-up

Head coach Gregor Townsend and prodigal son Finn Russell in training this week. Image: © Craig Watson -
Head coach Gregor Townsend and prodigal son Finn Russell in training this week. Image: © Craig Watson -

FINN RUSSELL has been handed the Scotland No 10 jersey for Sunday’s clash against New Zealand, having only arrived in Edinburgh on Tuesday after missing the first two rounds of this Autumn Test Series through non-selection. He replaces the injured Adam Hastings, while Blair Kinghorn has to make do with a spot on the bench.

Head coach Gregor Townsend has made two other changes to the starting line-up he sent out against Fiji last weekend, with Sione Tuipulotu replacing Cam Redpath – who has been released back to his club – at inside-centre, and Fraser Brown – another late-call-up – coming in at hooker for George Turner, who picked up a shoulder injury last weekend.

WP Nel replaces Murphy Walker as tight-head replacement on the bench, and Mark Bennett inherits the back replacement slot created by Tuipulotu’s call-up.


Scotland (v New Zealand at Murrayfield, Sunday @ 2.15pm): S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris (VC), S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; F Russell, A Price ; P Schoeman, F Brown, Z Fagerson, R Gray, G Gilchrist (VC), J Ritchie©, H Watson, M Fagerson. Substitutes: E Ashman, R Sutherland, W Nel, J Gray, J Dempsey, B White, B Kinghorn, M Bennett.

Scotland v New Zealand: All Blacks make seven changes

About David Barnes 3821 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. Alistair,
    Love the summary regarding the centre situation. Absolutely accurate. Townsend really needs to be taken to task /given the chance to explain his selections in the centre. There is no logic in this pairing. Over both sides of the ball We all know it makes more sense to play players in their natural position or at least the one they play regularly at club level. What does playing Tuipulotu at 12 say to all the other regular 12s we have ?
    It would be great at half-time to have Beauden Barrat swap places with Russel to see if he could get that back line moving.
    As for Brown the penalty machine at hooker, a fine player in his day but even then he was always prone to give away too many penalties. Ashman apparently has a knock, yet appears on the bench. Cherry injured but what of Stuart Mcinally?
    Strong bench.

    • What an inspired selection by Toonie. For the last couple of weeks he’s been slated by the rugby public and media for dropping Finn. He’s been telling everyone that BK’s the man and has total confidence in him. Now he brings Finn into the squad because of injuries and selects him over BK,but selects a centre partnership that’s more defence than opening up the opposition and getting the back three into the game. Both centres are “crash ball” types who don’t really spread the play. This puts more pressure on Finn to produce “wonder”passes to bring the back three into play. Then when things don’t work Finn and a centre are replaced by BK and Mark Bennett (who can find space and bring other players into the game), GT says “told you” and Finn’s released back to Racing, with BK back as first choice against Argentina.
      Machiavelli would be proud.
      What does the selection do for BK’s confidence? Didn’t start against the Aussies and when he did get on Cameron Redpath appeared to be first receiver with BK positioned back field shouting instructions. Is this why Redpath was released back to Bath? Is BK first choice unless we’re playing against the top teams?
      Time will tell, but I’m sure everyone’s hoping that Finn has a great game tomorrow.

  2. For the life of me I cannot understand how Ali Price is starting? He’s been a good servant for Scotland but his service is now so slow, Finn Russell is going to struggle to make any impression?
    His slow, slow & even slower box kicking is so far off the mark he just hands possession back to the opposition in open play to counter attack, 9 times out of 10.
    I’m afraid he is now so predictable, wee need a dynamic scrum-half who keeps his opposite number, and the back row on there toes, to keep them guessing by varying there game.
    The AB’s will have little to fear in this regard?

    • Very true, George – but its not so long ago that everyone was screaming for Price because Greg Laidlaw was considered so slow.
      Overcoached or just tactics?

    • a tricky one.
      Coming on a 9 with 20mins to go is very different from starting, so it falls to a choice between Price’s experience and White’s lack of it at this level. But Price does have to up his game IMHO. Box kicking has been poor this season, and needs to snipe more. On his service, main reason its slow is the inability of the pack to generate front foot quick ball, out ruck speed is gar too slow

  3. We have possibly the best attacking 10 in the world. So why not give him two attacking centres to exploit his skills? Russell , Duhan VDM, Redpath, Bennett, Graham and Hogg, is possibly as good a back line as any currently playing. But no the ayatollah deems it a better idea to have 2 donkeys in the centre. They are probably the 2 centres the kiwis would pick to play against. And as for the return of Fraser Brown, well absolutely no chance of reducing the pointless penalty count.

  4. Great to see Finn back, first and foremost. I think Ben White was due a crack at scrum half but lets see if Price can rediscover his Lions form. Back row on paper is good but theyll need to put in a massive shift against Ardie Savea in particular. Centre combination is baffling, Harris’s defence is his best asset which is why he always plays yet we shift him from a more demanding defending position at 13 (defending the outside channel), to 12, which not his natural position. Townsend has spent years talking about having a second playmaker at 12, Harris is certainly not that. I fear Duhan and Darcy could end up being very peripheral figures unless Finn conjurs up some of his magic. Hoping for a big performance and a tight game! Come on 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

    • Apologies folks. Was sent an inaccurate snip of a team selection on Watsapp with the centres in the wrong positions, hence my remarks. But still, a very baffling centre pairing even with Tuip at 12 and Harris at 13

  5. Looks the Tooniebola is in full flow again.

    Whereas I welcome Finn being back, the centre combination is simply bizarre. Tuipulota has done nothing to suggest he’s an international class player, and now he’s a starter at 12 instead of 13?
    Darcy and Duhan will be fighting for scraps and high balls. Awful.

    In the pack, it’s hard to see why an aging Fraser Brown is being once again catapulted in… and that’s before we even consider his appalling record of giving away brain dead penalties.

    The back 3 haven’t impressed in the last couple of games, and it’s a shame that Darge isn’t available. Fagerson can consider himself lucky not to be dropped in favour of Dempsey, and we really, really need a big game from Hamish.

    Also fortunate to be starting is the seemingly undropable Ali Price, who hasn’t played a good game for Scotland in over a year.

    Ah well. It is what it is. Let’s get on with it and see what happens.

    • I must disagree on M Fagerson! He is a consistently stellar performer for Scotland, often punches above his weight. I did see a case for a Dempsey inclusion for his ball carrying power but certainly no reflection on Matt who has been thus far excellent at test level. We need a massive shift from all our back rowers tomorrow thats for sure

    • Fagerson has been outstanding. Watson has been tackling passively and little else- Richie to 7, Fagerson 6 and Dempsey 8 would have been my picks

  6. If Finn had been on the field against Australia, would have won that match, sadly we didn’t have a decent kicker in the squad.I’m not a rocket scientist but not having a no 10 that can’t kick is ridiculous.

  7. As much as I don’t understand the strategy at 10, I find the 12 and 13 situation even more confusing. It must be very tough being in the Scotland set up.

    It seems, for reasons that escape me, that Sam Johnson is considered the leading 12. I only recall a couple of good games by Sam and that was the 38-38 draw and v France in 2021. A good defender but he can’t run further than 10 metres and cannot kick. I mean he literally cannot kick a ball.

    Redpath was sensational on his debut, and has now been dropped after one average to poor performance v Fiji.

    Hutch has always performed well but now may be only the 5th or 6th choice full back. Not even considered at 13.

    Matt Scott was given one game v SA at 12, made two mistakes and is now completely out of the squad.

    Sione who is a 13 only gets in at 12 where I think we all agree he is not effective. The back line did not function v Aus. But as of today he is first choice 12.

    M Bennett is I think, 3rd choice 13 after Harris and Sione even though he is on fire for Edinburgh.

    Lang and Dean are in excellent form at 12 but are out of the squad.

    Stafford McDowell is 3rd choice at 12 but has now been dropped after no game time.

    And now people are talking about Kinghorn at 12 even though he has never played there and has shown us what a bad idea it is to play a winger / full back out of position.

    I am sure I have forgotten someone. It is a real shame that George Taylor had to retire as he may have been better than anyone above. Although he may be secretly relieved as Townsend would have probably played him in the front row.

    I remember now who I forgot. Huw Jones. Just to complicate things a bit more.

    • Excellent summary of the totally muddled approach to the midfield. It’s a decent team for Sunday but neither centre has good hands. Sione was a weak leak v Australia when we need to shift the ball. Just about every supported would have paired Finn and Redpath. We must get a new coach for 6 nations. I don’t think it will cha ge out chances of getting through the world cup group – we just need to start selecting for every game with some consistent thinking and giving the players a coherent game plan

    • Perfect summary … for the past few years the most exciting centres seem to be Hutch at 12 and Bennett at 13 but they have both struggled to get squad let alone game time but week after week they carve out défenses .. I get that you might need a banger but hutch or Bennett should compliment them/ and or be on the bench

  8. Was hoping to see:

    Russell 😁
    White for Price
    Redpath – don’t get that at all
    Ashman for Brown/Turner
    JGray for Gilchrist (bench)
    Dempsey at 8
    Matt Fagerson at 6
    Ritchie at 7 for Watson (bench)

    Looks like we need Finn distributing direct to Wings with kick-pass….

    We can’t compete in the game without scoring, and this is a very conservative 15 not set up to attack…..

    Happy to be proved wrong and that GT has finally uncovered a magic combination from the playing the same folk out of position.

  9. Looks like the team finishing the game will be stronger than the one starting it(the Eddie Jones theory) with Ashman, Dempsey and White to come on – just hope the ABs are not out of sight by then.
    Any takers on Kinghorn finishing as inside centre? An exciting prospect apparently….

  10. Not sure what to make of the Redpath / Tuipulotu switch , I said else where Redpath is a straight 12, Tuipulotu just does not impress me. Just watched Gregor on YouTube he says the other hookers had gotten knocks hence Brown, make of that what you will , but Ashman has been our best hooker so far. The other not again moment is Price at 9 yet again. His form is poor his box kicking very poor, even with a couple of good wingers in Graham and VDM he just gives away possession constantly. Horne and White are the guys for me at the moment. Watson has been poor for a while , Dempsey might have been a better start for me also. Still we have Finn back and against Barrett what’s not to like, for me two best 10’s in world rugby head to head.

  11. Great that Russell is starting, my fear is with Harris and Tuipolotu the very dangerous back 3 will never get the ball, They just run into the opposition. Also Price is far off his best form Horne would be much better. If Kinghorn and Bennett come on in the Centre, leaving Finn still playing it could make for a very interesting end to the game

  12. Perfectly logical, we have hemmoraged penalties the last two games, so makes sense to bring in and start Fraser Brown…

    Why bring in an ageing, pentalty machine hooker, not selected in the original squad, instead of the young, dynamic and in-form hooker your originally selected?

    Form obviously means nothing, given Price has been 2nd choice and poor for club, poor for Scotland, yet still starts.

    Redpath being jettisioned from the squad completely for a 12 who is a 13, with no spare 12 on the bench.

    Back row have lost the gain line battle consistently, so makes total sense to retain them against an incredibly physical ABs back row.

    Starting Russell instead of Kinghorn because you finally realise that having a ten who can kick is actually useful at international level is the only logic displayed in this team selection…


Comments are closed.