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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

‘Only Our Best Performance Will Do’ – Townsend

‘Only Our Best Performance Will Do’ – Townsend

Scotland won three of their four warm-up games, defeating France and Georgia twice ©INPHO/Craig Watson

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made ten changes to the team that saw off Georgia 36-9 recently, as they prepare to face Ireland in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup Pool A opener in Yokohama (kick-off 4.45pm local time/8.45am Irish time).

Two-thirds of the selected Scottish team have previous World Cup experience, with Townsend saying: “We’ve had a really productive week’s preparation in Nagasaki ahead of our arrival in Tokyo, with our players adapting to the time zone and weather conditions out here in Japan.

“As we’ve got closer to the game against Ireland, our training has been more about fine-tuning the hard work that’s gone in over pre-season into a focus for Sunday’s game.

“Our team has a lot of experience playing together in major games for Scotland, with a bench capable of making a difference when required. That cohesion, experience and leadership is very valuable in a build-up to a match of this magnitude as well as during the 80 minutes on Sunday.”

Exeter Chiefs full-back Stuart Hogg and Saracens winger Sean Maitland return to the back-three, linking up with fellow British & Irish Lion Tommy Seymour, while another Lions pair, Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw, also slot back in as a tried-and-trusted half-back pairing.

Centres Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor are the only backs retained, with Johnson’s Glasgow Warriors club-mates Ryan Wilson and Jonny Gray also keeping their paces up front. The remaining six changes in the forwards include the front row trio of Allan Dell, captain Stuart McInally and Willem Nel.

Townsend added: “In Ireland we face quality opposition who, over the past number of years, have earned the right to be the number one ranked side in the world. We know them well and are well aware of the strengths they possess throughout their squad.

“We expect them to play very well, as they did in their most recent games against Wales, so only our best performance will do in order to win. The prospect of facing them in the opening round of a Rugby World Cup is a fantastic challenge for our players and supporters around the world.”

SCOTLAND Team & Replacements (v Ireland, 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A, International Yokohama Stadium, Sunday, September 22, kick-off 4.45pm local time/8.45am Irish time):

Player/Club/Caps –

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) 69
14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) 52
13. Duncan Taylor (Saracens) 23
12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) 6
11. Sean Maitland (Saracens) 42
10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) 46
9. Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne) 73
1. Allan Dell (London Irish) 25
2. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) (capt) 29
3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh) 31
4. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) 36
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 52
6. John Barclay (Edinburgh) 74
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) 27
8. Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) 45

Replacements:

16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) 42
17. Gordon Reid (Ayrshire Bulls) 37
18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) 22
19. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) 4
20. Blade Thomson (Scarlets) 2
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) 27
22. Chris Harris (Gloucester) 10
23. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) 7