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Gregor Townsend hails return of 'key player'

By PA
Scotland's head coach Gregor Townsend (R) talks to his players ahead of the Six Nations international rugby union match between Scotland and England at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 24, 2024. (Photo by Andy Buchanan / AFP) (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend welcomed the energy of the returning Adam Hastings after picking the stand-off for Friday’s tour match against the United States.

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Hastings, who will return to Glasgow from Gloucester after the Americas tour, last played for his country in November 2022, scoring a try against Fiji.

The 27-year-old missed the cut when Townsend named his World Cup squad last year but has the chance to impress in Washington.

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“He was a key player for us, has played a number of games and was growing and developing as a 10, as you do when you when you get older,” the Scotland head coach said after naming a much-changed side from last weekend’s win against Canada.

“So to miss the chance to be involved in the World Cup, to have a couple of injuries this year as well, it has been great seeing him back training.

“He brings a real energy on and off the field and and he’s been trained very well. So he’s got an opportunity this week.”

Other less established players to be selected are Scarlets lock Alex Craig and Glasgow prop Murphy Walker, who will win his fourth cap.

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Townsend said: “Murphy is someone that we rate very highly. He was in our wider World Cup squad, just missed out on final selection and has had a stop-start season.

“But he was back fit at the end of the season and did well when Glasgow went to the pools before the play-offs.”

Craig, a former Gloucester team-mate of Hastings, will win his third cap after a three-year absence.

“He picked up a little niggle last week, so he wasn’t considered for the game, but he’s fully fit now and he’s someone who has waited a while for his opportunity to play.

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“When we beat France in Paris in 2021, I thought he was excellent, but he had a couple of injuries.

“He moved to to Scarlets and was very consistent with them and throughout the season got better and better. He won player of the season at Scarlets, which is a huge achievement for someone coming in from another club, not a local player.

“What he brings is aggression and work-rate. He goes forward, he loves the the contact side of the game.

“I think there’s a really good complement with him and Scott Cummings as well, just in terms of how they they control the line out and the complement they have with their their skill set.”

Scotland team: Rowe, Steyn, Jones, Tuipulotu (all Glasgow), Van der Merwe (Edinburgh), Hastings, Horne (both Glasgow); Schoeman, Ashman (both Edinburgh), Walker (Glasgow), Craig (Scarlets), Cummings (Glasgow), Ritchie (Edinburgh), Darge, Fagerson (both Glasgow).

Replacements: Smith, Millar-Mills (both Northampton), Sutherland, Williamson, Dobie (all Glasgow), Crosbie, Thompson, Currie (all Edinburgh).

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finn 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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