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Five talking points from Scotland’s Rugby World Cup Squad

Five talking points from Scotland’s Rugby World Cup Squad

Five talking points from Scotland’s Rugby World Cup Squad

The Rugby World Cup is now less than a month away and Scotland are the latest side to announce their squad ahead of the impending August 31 deadline. 

Now the squad is announced, there can be no more speculation about who will make the trip to France and the real selection headaches for Gregor Townsend can truly begin ahead of their final Summer Nations Series clash against Georgia next weekend. 

Scotland are in Pool B of the Rugby World Cup, competing with reigning champions South Africa, Romania, Tonga and Guinness Six Nations champions Ireland for a spot in the knockout stages. 

But with such a talented group of players at Townsend’s disposal, what are the talking points from the squad selection? 

No space for McInally 

One of the few areas of possible contention in terms of selection for Townsend and his coaching staff was at hooker, where four had to go into three. 

In their three matches of the Summer Nations Series so far, all four of those hookers – George Turner, Ewan Ashman, Dave Cherry and Stuart McInally – have seen significant time on the field, including McInally coming off the bench in the 30-27 defeat to France last Saturday. 

Those 25 minutes in Saint Etienne, combined with a further 34 against Italy in the Summer Nations Series opener suggested McInally would be on the plane but Townsend thought otherwise. 

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It is a bold choice to leave out a hooker with as much experience as McInally, who captained Scotland four years ago, in favour of two hookers with fewer than 10 caps in Ashman and Cherry. 

They say fortune favours the brave and Townsend will certainly be hoping that is the case. 

Experience the key 

Despite not including McInally, this is generally a team with significant Rugby World Cup experience, with 14 of the 33 selected having been to a World Cup previously and four players in line for their third tournament. 

Those four – Finn Russell, Grant Gilchrist, Richie Gray and 37-year-old WP Nel – will be the experienced heads captain Jamie Ritchie leans on as Scotland look to improve on their disappointing World Cup campaign in Japan. 

But while there is experience, there has also been a significant re-fresh in the Scotland side since that group stage exit four years ago and Townsend will be hoping he has got the balance spot on. 

Full-back battle is on 

After Stuart Hogg’s shock retirement prior to the squad being announced, a position that has been ‘Hogged’ for over a decade suddenly became available. 

It presented an immediate opportunity to the likes of Ollie Smith and Blair Kinghorn and both of them have laid down a marker in the Summer Nations Series. 

Kinghorn started both matches against France and, with his experience, would be expected to be the first-choice option. But Smith, who started against Italy, is more than an able deputy, as shown with his well-taken score in just his second cap against Australia. 

White included 

Scotland’s main injury concern came when scrum-half Ben White went off half an hour into the 25-21 win over France at Scottish Gas Murrayfield just under two weeks ago. 

Having emerged as the starting scrum-half, Townsend was presented with an unwanted issue to potentially fix but in including the Toulon-bound scrum-half, it would appear White will win his battle for fitness after all. 

Ali Price and George Horne have proven they are also excellent operators over the years but since being presented with the opportunity, White has been Scotland’s stand-out scrum-half and Townsend will be wrapping him in cotton wool until their tournament opener against the Springboks on September 10. 

X-Factor backs to support superstar Russell 

While there can be no doubting that Finn Russell is Scotland’s star in the backline, this is a set of backs that will have both excited Scotland supporters and struck fear into the very hearts of their opposition.

A settled midfield in Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones has wreaked havoc in both the Guinness Six Nations and Summer Nations Series while there is no end to the extreme talent in the wide areas Townsend can deploy.

Duhan van der Merwe’s power and ability to make so many metres, combined with Darcy Graham’s incredible knack for scoring tries is a dream combination, with Kinghorn and Smith both completing it from full-back.

Then there are the likes of Kyle Steyn, a double try-scorer at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, as well as youngsters Ben Healy and Cam Redpath – one thing is for sure – this Scotland team will be a joy to watch.

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