Six Nations: Wales v Scotland: Rory Darge and Blair Kinghorn out as Gregor Townsend names team for opener

Scotland are looking for a first win over Wales in Cardiff since 2002

Gregor Townsend has named his team for the Six Nations opener against Wales: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

RORY DARGE has lost his fitness battle to be ready for Scotland’s Six Nations opening match away to Wales on Saturday.

The Glasgow flanker injured his knee in the second leg of the 1872 Cup derby against Edinburgh at Murrayfield on December 30 and has been racing to be ready for the start of the championship.

But Gregor Townsend believes his new co-captain hasn’t recovered sufficiently to make the starting XV for Cardiff.


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Instead Jamie Ritchie, deposed as captain, starts at openside, with Luke Crosbie and Matt Fagerson at blindside and Number 8 respectively. Jack Dempsey provides cover on the bench.

Townsend had some other big calls to make elsewhere on the pitch and has plumped for Ben White at scrum-half over Ali Price and George Horne, with the latter named among the replacemennts.

Glasgow pair Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones resume their partnership in midfield, with Kyle Steyn and Duhan van der Merwe on the wings.

Kyle Rowe is a surprise choice at full-back for his second Scotland cap, with no Blair Kinghorn in the 23 after being ruled out with a knee injury.

The rest of the pack is along familiar lines, with props Pierre Schoeman and Zander Fagerson either side of hooker George Turner, and Richie Gray and Scott Cummings in the second row with Grant Gilchrist suspended.

 

Scotland (versus Wales at Principality Stadium, Saturday, 4.45pm): K Rowe; K Steyn, H Jones, S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; F Russell (c), B White; P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson, R Gray, S Cummings, L Crosbie, J Ritchie, M Fagerson  Substitutes: E Ashman, A Hepburn, E Millar-Mills, S Skinner, J Dempsey, G Horne, B Healy, C Redpath.

Wales: C Winnett; J Adams, O Watkin, N Tompkins, R Dyer; S Costelow, G Davies; C Domachowski, R Elias, L Brown, D Jenkins (c), A Beard, J Botham, T Reffell, A Wainwright. Substitutes: E Dee, K Mathias, K Assiratti, T Williams, A Mann, T Williams, I Lloyd, M Grady.


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About Graeme Macpherson 25 Articles
Graeme Macpherson is a freelance sports writer who covers rugby for a number of outlets.

60 Comments

  1. I wonder what like Cam Redpath would be at stand-off, seems to have the skillset from what i’ve seen.

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    • Not to replace Finn in the here and now I ought to have added, more with the future in mind.

  2. Horne should do the 90 minutes. Every time he comes on the backs have an extra few seconds to be creative. Would like to see Redpath come on towards end of first half. He and Finn have gelled at Bath, let’s take advantage of that!

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    • I know there are lots of Horne fans on here, who’ll no doubt pounce on this as if it’s sacrilegious, but I don’t believe his passing is of a high enough quality or consistency to be the starting 9. He offers more besides, but that’s a fundamental part of being a scrum-half and he doesn’t cut it. That’s from watching him in hope and being disappointed. No change is needed at 9.

  3. Just thinking that with Darge a “co-captain” and therefore presumably one of GT’s preferred picks, could we end up with a back row of Fagerson, Ritchie & Darge at some point, a variation on Fagerson Ritchie and Watson? I totally get Darge is a really good player but really need some heft against the likes of Ireland & France & can’t understand how Christie isn’t in the 23. We could well pick up injuries to ease the log jam of back row selection but worried that GT is going to leave out some of our potentially best players while trying to solve the back row conundrum.

  4. GT selection just does my head in. Christie, on form in the Premiership, nowhere near the team. Ritchie struggling as opined by the coach gets the nod whilst his Edinburgh team mate joins him. Crosbie still has to show up for Scotland and this back row has no ball carriers. Indeed there are no ball carriers in this pack which will struggle against a pretty big pack,with Reffell and Wainright to the fore. Fagerson,Dempsey and Christie would make the battle of the back rows more equal.I hope I am wrong but Finn and Tuipolotu might struggle to get the quick ball they need.Surely there is room for players like Bradbury and Christie in this team. I personally dont care how players are eligible to play for us and at the moment thanks to Dodson and Mallinder we have no home grown young talent. We just need to pick the best players available and GT has not done that.

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    • Clearly, Ritchie has done enough to warrant selection, otherwise he wouldn’t be in the team. Maybe Christie hasn’t slotted in well enough – who knows? Crosbie is an absolute unit, and played incredibly well for us in the first 2 rounds last year (check his stats, crazy amount of tackles etc) but then was just suddenly dropped. We have plenty of talented Scottish players, unfortunately, a few of them are injured at the moment. Look at Crosbie, Bradbury, M. Fagerson, Henderson, Darge, Dobie, Smith, Rowe, Patterson, Thompson, McDowall, Currie, Muncaster. We could easily put together a very good match day 23 of players entirely produced by the Scottish system:

      1. Sutherland
      2. Turner
      3. Fagerson
      4. Gray
      5. Gilchrist
      6. Crosbie
      7. Darge
      8. Fagerson
      9. Horne
      10. Russell
      11. Rowe
      12. McDowall
      13. Bennett
      14. Graham
      15. Kinghorn
      16. Cherry
      17. Bhatti
      18. Walker
      19. Cummings/J.Gray
      20. Ritchie/Bradbury
      21. Dobie
      22. Hastings
      23. Smith

      I would rather see boys playing for Scotland that actually came through our system, instead of talented English lads who trained and grew up in England representing us just because they had a granny from Ayr.

      Using your logic, would you be happy seeing a squad of 23 foreign-trained players, not a single one born or trained in Scotland, representing Scotland? Doesn’t exactly inspire future generations does it.

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      • So which is the lesser of two evils – a team with foreign trained team that wins or a Scottish trained team that loses?
        It is a results driven business and Scotland do not have such a wide pool of players to be parochial.
        When World Rugby decides that players have to be home trained to represent their country, we’ll go with your team
        Might be a while …

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  5. We had a poor World Cup yet we head into the 6Ns with virtually the same team. The team needs to evolve and on-form players should be rewarded. Christie should be ahead of Ritchie and Fagerson currently, he just seems to have more to his all-round game.
    Hutchinson also deserves his chance.

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  6. I bet Bhatti is thrilled that an Englishman (Aussie) has just slotted in on a whim and taken his spot in the Scotland team, all those years of hard work to be replaced by a guy who would rather represent the English if possible.

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  7. Difficult to understand the Rowe selection. Rowe has had only one start at 15 in his pro career whereas the talented Hutchinson started at 15 for Northampton last week. Astonished by the omission of Christie who has won 3 MoMs in last 8 games and Ritchie has been out injured. You would think the back row should be Christie, Dempsey and Fagerson.

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    • Agree on Christie starting somewhere, but I’m willing to go with the coach on this one. I think Rowe is a good player who will show up well on the day.

  8. We will miss Kinghorn but let’s give Rowe a chance. Christie and Bradbury both have MOTM performances one not in Squad the other ignored… We say we have back row strength but we need a big ball carrier to take it to Wales and I don’t see one. Really hope the boys do well. The ref at the breakdown will be crucial at least they don’t have the old guard getting away with their illegal tricks. And I think Russell will be great with the ref.
    C’mon Scotland lets get off to a great start.

  9. Not much positivity here today ….

    I hope that may change with a good win, but I guess your average long term Scotland fan tries not to hope too much.

    However as someone said, here we go again, perhaps this is the one?

    I’m hoping ensuring the scrum can get a nudge will give us front foot ball and then the backs can deliver first phase penetration, and score a bucket full of tries !!! Come on boys !

  10. Is that not the same backrow as last year? Went okay then. Can see why some want Christie but no doubt he’ll be considered a joke by some of the same posters in a few months. Ritchie and Crosbie are still good options. Shame Darge is out but I’m okay with two big physical 6/7s.

    Full back is what it is. We just don’t have another option who plays there all the time.

    The rest of the team is fairly predictable. I’d like Horne to start but can’t deny there’s loguc to having him on the bench.

    On the bench, I can see why people want Matthews there (or even to start) but not too fussed. To be honest, I think his ceiling is lower than the oth3r two’s. Props are interesting but if they think the newbies have potential, makes sense to get them involved immediately. Apart from lineout calls, not a huge amount for them to get up to speed with. Once Kinghorn was out, Healy probably had to be there.

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  11. I suspect the back row calls re Dempsey and Christie came about due to the volume of non homegrown players elsewhere in the team. Otherwise it would be Ireland at the rugby league World Cup levels of comedy.

    As for the game itself – never been more apathetic before the start of the 6N. Another season under Townsend with uninspired and unjustified selections. I expect Wales to copy their gameplay v Australia at RWC. Tackle, smother and attack in short but effective bursts. I just don’t see this Scotland team having enough about it to win an arm wrestle.

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    • And one other thing. Can we either burn the principality roof or have it welded shut. Wales have been point scoring over this pish for 25 years now.

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  12. Poorest Welsh team for 25 years!! that may be however I think a lot of folk are missing a very important point. They have a world class coach while we have a very poor one. I hope I am proved wrong but I fear once again I will be proven right. If so I will certainly with great pleasure apologise to Mr Townsend.

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  13. I’ve never seen rowe play full back, he doesn’t play there at warriors, it’s been some time since he did so at London Irish, gotta hope he feels right at home, if not it’s gonna be a long day at the office as Gatland will have schooled his boys to launch the high ball and challenge / unsettle the lad at every opportunity. A schoolboy error from the coach there I’d say, love to be proved wrong, but certain positions at international level (Full back for example) should be filled with guys with a proven track record in that position and their club coach plays them in that position because they know that’s where they play best.
    As for the replacement props , looks like we are going for solidity in the scrum first rather than ability round the paddock. Sebastian and Bhatti have been around the Scotland camps long enough to know the expansive game plan. Millar-Mills and Hepburn will no doubt hold the scrum up but are they up to speed with our handling game after 1 weeks training – I doubt it.
    Another schoolboy error from the coach methinks.
    Strange how 2 bench warming props from the premiership are considered superior to first team regulars from the URC yet in the back row Christie’s a 3 time in a row M.O.M winner from the premiership and can’t get even a place on the bench and sits behind a deposed Ritchie and a head injured Dempsey- Bizarre,
    Ashman has failed to impress and has to be behind URC record try scorer Mathews but not in Townsends eyes, has Harris handed the compromising snaps over to Ashman now.?

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    • Who would you suggest is 15 when we have 3 x 15’s injured? We are also short of options at Props but greater depth in the back row. Lots of complaining here but not backed up with counter points!

  14. If we don’t win this one against the poorest Wales team in 25 years then he should be sacked on the spot, Scotland players always seem to be in a comfort zone with no fear factor

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  15. Actually only two changes from the starting XV that played so impressively last year in the 6 Nations to beat Wales 35-7. Those two changes are at full back (Stuart Hogg retired, Kyle Rowe selected) and lock (Grant Gilchrist suspended, Scott Cummings selected). We have to hope having beat them so comprehensively last year we can beat them again this year with this XV

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  16. Shame about the injuries. Wales are going to be stuffy but they are very limited. We should still have enough to get this done.

    My hope is that without the nous of the Welsh old guard they won’t be savvy enough to force us into a dog fight like they normally do and will be less effective at persuading the referee to give them the benefit of the doubt at the breakdown

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    • I had not realised that Crosbie had started in last season’s win against Wales. Would have liked Dempsey to start.
      Disappointed that Kinghorn has joined Ollie Smith on the injured list but good luck to Rowe. Quite daunting for him to suddenly have to play FB. I am not aware of him having played there at all. Shows how short of depth we are in reality. Tight head another position we are struggling in.

  17. A strong enough side named by Townsend.
    I am delighted to see Crosbie in there at 6, he has been very decent for Scotland whenever called upon and think he has the mentality and the dog we need in there at the breakdown. Ritchie surely will have a point to prove with losing the captaincy so expecting a big performance from him also. White has linked up very nicely with Russell at out halves before, so see why he has gone with White there. In terms of the backline there is alot of good form club consistency there with Tuip, Jones, Steyn and Rowe which could bode well in terms of running lines. On the face of it you would think Graham is a huge loss on the wing but lets be honest Steyn isnt downgrade and has been very very solid any time he has played for Scotland. Not tinkering with the Tuip and Jones combination is a good decision for me, Jones looked electric against Toulon and primed for this year’s six nations. Rowe at full back im ok with, he has played plenty of rugby there for London Irish so hope he goes well.

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    • No I don’t think he has actually?

      I think it’s a stupid call. Huw Jones and Hutch would both be excellent replacements for BK at FB and we have plenty of top quality centers to cover Huw. Or Steyn has played FB hasn’t he and is good under the high ball and tested in this environment etc. Makes no sense to me. Hope I’m proven wrong and Kyle has a stormer but feel he’s being put in a ridiculous position by an overthinking coach

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  18. Dempsey only played 1 game since the world cup, I actually think its no a bad idea for him to come on about 55 mins.
    Agree that Kinghorn isn’t that much of a miss, he’s best as impact sub.
    White has best service, need to get ball to Finn.
    I’ve not seen Christie playing but our back row potentially wins us the game

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  19. Some astonishing calls – and Townsend has discarded the form book in too many cases. No Andy Christie despite Darge’s absence – not even on the bench – so a gift horse has duly been looked in the mouth. Dempsey is our best eight all day long – where he is first choice for Glasgow – while Ritchie hardly deserves a cap at all on current form. Kinghorn’s absence, together with that of Smith, means we have no full back who plays for his club in that position. Townsend doesn’t want to split the Tuipolotu-Jones partnership fair enough, but even so I would move the latter to 15 and bring in Cammy Redpath at centre. It would also free-up a spot on the bench for Hutchinson, who Townsend has taken agin ever since being made coach. Steyn is on the wing despite any recent game time, where Kyle Rowe would serve much better in his normal position. Underwhelmed, for there are several holes that should have been filled better.

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    • Not really sure why everyone keeps talking about Steyn being at 15 over Rowe. He’s never played there for Scotland or Glasgow, whereas Kyle Rowe played 15 for Scotland on his debut and played there a lot for London Irish. Townsend has always seen Rowe as back-three cover with Hutchinson. Also would rather keep Jones at his best and preferred posisiton. Rowe is more likely to be a long-term back-three bench player for Scotland, so makes sense to give him experience now.

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      • On the BBC pod today (I think) where they interviewed Kyle Rowe I’m sure they mentioned he hadn’t played 15 since he was with Edinburgh.

    • Has to be his last season….best 9 ignored yet again despite the only times we gave looked threatening in last 18 months he’s been on the park, two most in form back rows not in squad, rookie bench 10 who is nowhere near this level, two hookers that can’t throw in and best hooker nowhere to be seen….the only saving grace is that Wales are so bereft at the moment. New CEO needs to target a new coach immediately.This could be every bit as predictable a campaign as the last 2 RWC…

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      • Assuming you mean Christie and Bayliss. Honestly, you replace Ritchie and Crosbie (Fagerson and Dempsey are nailed on) with those two and our squad is overwhelmingly (and embarrassingly) barely Scottish. Crosbie and Ritchie will be grand and frankly, I’d rather see priority given to players that came through the Scottish system and continue to play in Scotland.

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    • Totally agree with your comments, though Hutchinson has played at FB, including the Saint’s last game, so would have thought he could slot in there with Rowe on the wing as you suggest. Not sure about our replacement front row either – if Sebastian still not fit can understand the TH call but would certainly prefer Matthews to Ashman and possibly Bhatti to Hepburn, though that’s quite a close one. Maybe GT wants both new props capped ASAP??

    • Totally agree regarding the back row – don’t understand why Crosbie and Ritchie are getting the nod before Christie and Dempsey. I know Dempsey isn’t long back from injury but he showed up well against Toulon in Europe and I’d rather start with our strongest carrier instead of having him warming the bench until the game’s either won or lost already.
      Would have loved to have seen Sione starting with Redpath alongside in the centres, but can understand why he’s stuck with Jones – who looks like he’s coming back into form after a torrid time on the wing for warriors.
      Just knew that wee George would be (criminally) overlooked for a start again though – just feels like GT can’t being himself to play a fast ball-playing scrum half who can set our backs loose instead of the steady kicker. And what doe the form hooker Matthews have to do to make the 23?!

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    • I really don’t understand why you consider this an astonishing selection.
      You gave the reason yourself why Jones is being played at centre. Of course Rowe isn’t first for fullback but given the circumstances good opportunity to give him a run there.
      I do agree that Dempsey is our best 8 but is very short of game time so coming off the bench is a good option besides Fagerson isn’t exactly a mug and our strongest all rounder for the backrow. Also Crosbie can do a lot of the carrying we would expect from Dempsey.
      As already pointed out it’s the same the same starting 15 as last year but for enforced changes.

    • Hugh Jones as fantastic for Harlequins at full back and we couls have had the very decent Bath 10 12 axis which has been going great guns in the premiership.

  20. Looks a bit more physical than Scotland teams of late, especially in the back row.

    I like Kyle Rowe. He’d be in most Scotland teams I’ve supported, he’s just unlucky that even with Hogg retiring we have so much in the back 3.

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  21. Agree Christie should be on the bench. Also Dempsey should start to get better go forward ball. George Horne has not been playing that well this season and his box kicking is poor. Ritchie has lost his Jackaling skills so is the weak point in the back row

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  22. Hadn’t realised Kinghorn was injured so shows how little cover we have at full back but Rowe can hopefully do a job here. Other surprises for me are in the bench props where Bhatti would normally be back up (is he injured also?). and no Sebastian who I also assume is not fully fit? Also expected to see Mathews somewhere and thought Dempsey might get on but a good man to have on the bench. Other than that pretty much as expected.

    • Just don’t know why Matthews and Horne are not in the starting team. Matthews by far our best hooker in every department and Wee George obviously don’t fit Toonies mindset. Sad really!!

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  23. Kinghorn is a big miss but that team should still feel confident against a very raw looking Wales squad. Wonder if Hutchinson was considered as a full back option. Shame that such a talented player never gets a look in – but centre is v competitive.
    Hoping to see Finn have a blinder, with lots of front foot ball

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  24. Surprise with Kyle at 15, but forced by injury to Kinghorn, so good luck to the guy. Rest of backs almost picked them self. Still prefer Horne at 9. I might have gone with Christie in the back row as well, Ritchie just leaves me cold as does Crosbie. Lets hope Dempsey makes a big impact along with the new guys. As a member of the Mathews fan club I would have him over Ashman, who I’m not convinced by. Will be interested to see if Redpath gets a good run and how he goes with either Jones or Tuipulotu.
    This is a winnable game and since I cannot see us beating Ireland or France we need to get of to a great start.

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  25. Always surprising

    I’d assume R Hutchinson will never play for Scotland again.

    Exciting backs and aggressive in yir face back row.

    Wales team worst on paper I’ve ever seen, however not letting my hopes “get op”

    • Townsends treatment of Hutchinson guaranteed we would have no chance with Smith and Dingwall.

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  26. Agree re Christie. to not get in the squad and have Ritche in ahead of him who Townsend was openly saying is out of form is a knock in the teeth.

    Is an underachieving six nations the end of Townsend ? must be surely??

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    • He should never have been reappointed after the awful 2019 WC
      I will say though he is very gifted at buggering up players careers. Years lost of Huw Jones at his best thanks to his poor decisions and Hutchinson as well.
      I really hope it’s a wooden spoon this year. Scotland will never get anywhere with that clown. Franco Snith is doing a way better job at Glasgow with far less natural resources in playing ability than the fortunate gifted squad that Gregor had there.

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      • I think Gregor Townsend is a very good salesman. It wont be a wooden spoon year it will be just enough for him to convince the elders at MF to keep him on the payroll – anywhere north of 5 th is as good as a championship title in the eyes of Sottish Rugby unfortunately.

        If it were up to me Franko Smith would be coming in Summer … but it isnt (luckily probably)

    • Here is hoping as GT is a fraud and each disaster has been pinned on someone else and he is more than happy to through others under the bus. The sheer arrogance of the man to think that he is doing well and the stupidity in his bosses believing him. Seems like he and Dobson have a mutual appreciation society. Finally what about Jamie Bhatti been involved in the match 23 for as long as I can remember and loses out to a full capped England international which is shockingly bad from Townsend. Bhatti would be well within his rights to tell GT to go take a flying **** GT abuses players desire to play for Scotland.

  27. Disappointed for Christie – he has been ripping up trees for Sarries this season and thought that he would be worth a start in the backrow. He can play across all three positions and is a line-out option. Certainly based on form I would have him in over Ritchie at the moment.

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    • I agree. He was quality at the weekend. Very surprised he’s not even on the bench, and I would also have had Crosbie somewhere. I think Kyle Rowe will do well.

      Anyway, am setting off later tonight. Here we go…

    • I would have had Christie in instead of either Ritchie or Fagerson…that said ..Ritchie’s best position in tests is always as a 7 he is a real problem for opposition there if he is in form. Also surprised Fagerson at 8 ahead of Dempsey..but Dempsey’s energy in the second half could be a big advantage.

      Rowe at FB I’m actually glad about…..Kinghorn is terrible at a high ball for such a big guy..Rowe is very solid under high balls ..good in defense and attack.

      Good to see Healy in there if Russell is targeted or his kicking is poor.

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      • I used to think that all Scottish full-backs had a 50:50 chance of a high ball bouncing of them. That seemed to change around the World Cup when Kinghorn was much more solid, including for Edinburgh. Watching the last few Toulouse games he hasn’t dropped one and been very solid – must be something in the water/wine. Was also goal-kicking accurately last week against Racing. Whether it was the Racing game -when he did look a bit sore from one of the hits – or a training injury, it would have been better for Scotland if he had been able to sit out last week’s game.

    • Ritchie obviously has showed up well in prep in response to being dropped…Christie maybe being wrapped in cotton wool for England game

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