Scotland v Tonga: Gregor Townsend names eight new caps in squad for Autumn opener

Pierre Schoeman, Jamie Hodgson, Sione Tuipulotu and Rufus McLean will all make their international debuts in starting XV against Tonga

Sione Tuipulotu will make his Scotland debut against Tonga this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson -
Sione Tuipulotu will make his Scotland debut against Tonga this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson -

GREGOR TOWNSEND has named four new caps in his starting XV and four more on the bench for Scotland’s Autumn Test series opener against Tonga at Murrayfield on Saturday.

South African Pierre Schoeman (who qualified to play for Scotland through the three-year residency rule earlier this year) makes his debut at loose-head prop, with his Edinburgh team-mate Jamie Hodgson in the second-row. Behind the scrum, Glasgow Warriors duo Sione Tuipulotu (an Australian with a Scottish grandmother who was recruited from Japan this summer) and Rufus McLean are at outside centre and on the left-wing, respectively.

On the bench, Edinburgh forwards Marshall Sykes (second-row) and Luke Crosbie (back-row), along with Glasgow backs Jamie Dobie (scrum-half) and Ross Thompson (stand-off/full-back), are in line for their international bows. Townsend has opted for a 6-2 split on the bench.

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Darcy Graham is selected at full-back, while Ali Price and Jamie Ritchie will co-captain the side, in the absence of Stuart Hogg, who is one of the English/French based players not available for this match as it has been scheduled outside the international window.

“As a playing and coaching group we are looking forward to returning to international rugby over the coming four weeks in the Autumn Nations Series,” said Townsend.

“This week has been our first opportunity since the Six Nations to come together as a team, and our goal is to become a better team over the next month. Saturday will also be a huge occasion for a number of players in our squad who have the honour of playing for their country for the first time.”

“Tonga will be very dangerous opponents for us, as they pose a ferocious physical challenge in attack and defence. They performed very well on their last visit to Scotland and I’m sure they will be highly motivated to take the game to us once again.”

Scotland (v Tonga at the Murrayfield, Friday 30th October @ 2.30pm British time): D Graham; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson, R McLean; B Kinghorn, A Price (CC); P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson, J Hodgson, R Harley, J Ritchie (CC), H Watson, M Fagerson. Replacements: S McInally, J Bhatti, O Kebble, M Sykes, L Crosbie, N Haining, J Dobie, R Thompson.

Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)

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About David Barnes 3556 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. Thompson 10, Kinghorn 15, Graham 11. And add Richie Gray to the starting line-up. He is experienced and can jump. Just ask Leinster.

  2. A few getting their knickers in a twist over the selection of Graham at 15, for what it’s worth I’ve seen him there a few times and don’t have a problem with it at all. However the locks worry me,both are hard working, honest types but I’m not convinced they’ll dominate come line-out time in attack or defence. I hope Townsend doesn’t underestimate Tonga, some of us remember what happened last time!

  3. You would have thought Richie Gray would be a better option at lock than Rob Harley, guaranteed line out ball would be a very nice thing to have come Saturday.

    • Since the team announcement, Gregor has informed us that Richie doesn’t want to be involved and Gilchrist is being saved for the tougher tests ahead. We’ll just have to support the guys who have been picked, let’s hope they both play blinders.

  4. Disappointed to see Kinghorn at ten and Graham at 15 – more ‘square peg round hole’ stuff when we have genuine options available in these positions who need the opportunity.

  5. It is good planning to bring in younger players and test them at this level to see how they cope.
    While I was surprised at Graham at full back he is brave in the tackle, has good high ball fielding skills and wow he will be devastating in attack with his speed and awkwardness in running style.
    I am particularly looking forward to seeing how McLean deals with this since his potential is huge.

    • Think he only had to come up from Wales where his club were camped for the URC games.
      May have been an interesting addition to cover if both Watson and Darge didn’t recover in time.

  6. Very interesting.

    My 1st thought was is GT underestimating Tonga?
    No idea why Forbes isn’t at 15 (or Ross Thompson for that matter) similarly why Kinghorn over Thompson at 10.
    I agree with others re Darcy Graham and playing at 15.

    Big strong set of forwards and a very formidable set of forwards on the bench.

    Very interesting.

  7. Unbelievable back 3 pace, and an attack-minded 10 suggests the game plan is to attack from anywhere. With a lightweight back 5 in the pack maybe that’s the only option! This could be epic or disastrous!

  8. Graham is NOT a 15. He is best served as a combatant and awkward winger. I would not be confident of him at all at 15.

    Interested to see how some of the uncapped players fair. Particularly, Schoemann and Tuipulotu.

    • Think it’s possibly a case of horses for courses, I shouldn’t think he’d be played there against stronger opposition. Tonga are unlikely to be bombarding him with box kicks and he’ll likely have a lot of space to run into – which is where he thrives.

  9. How much this selection has been influenced by the lack of availability of some players, I don’t know, but Graham’s been tried at 15 before and it wasn’t a great success. I imagine things will change as the game unfolds. It would have raised a few eyebrows if Harley’s name had been raised as a possible international return not long ago, but injuries and windows play their part in that decision too, no doubt.
    Overall, it’s good to get some new blood in the squad, it looks a well-balanced team and there is plently of potential for tries.


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