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One new cap to start as Scotland make 11 changes for Italy rematch

By Liam Heagney
Scotland celebrate beating Italy in March (Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

Gregor Townsend has named a team to face Italy this Saturday that shows 11 changes from the XV that defeated the Azzurri 19 weeks ago in the final round of the Guinness Six Nations. The Scots won that Murrayfield match 26-14 to finish the tournament in third place, but just four players from that outing will be repeat starters when they host Italy again this weekend in their opening Summer Nations Series match ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

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Full-back Ollie Smith, winger Kyle Steyn, hooker George Turner and second row Sam Skinner are the four players retained by Townsend as he tests the depth of his squad with the countdown now on towards the finals in France which open with a September 10 clash versus holders South Africa in Marseille.

Back row Rory Darge will skipper a team that offers Test debuts for the starting centre Stafford McDowall and the replacement second row Cameron Henderson.

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An SRU statement read: “McDowall has previously made appearances for Scotland U18 and U20 and Henderson, who was born in Hong Kong but qualifies to play for Scotland through his Scottish dad, also featured for the national age-grade teams.

“In the pack, loosehead prop Rory Sutherland has been selected along with tighthead Murphy Walker, with George Turner starting at hooker. Sam Skinner and Scott Cummings come into the second row, with blindside flanker Luke Crosbie and No8 Matt Fagerson joining Darge in the back row.

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“Edinburgh’s new signing Ben Healy, who made his first appearance for Scotland during the final 2023 Guinness Six Nations match against Italy earlier this year, starts at stand-off alongside Ali Price at scrum-half. The rest of the backs see Kyle Steyn and Darcy Graham line up on the wings, joined by Chris Harris and debutant McDowell in the centre. Ollie Smith completes the starting 15 at full back having played in the most recent win over Italy in March.

“The replacement bench contains a five-three split with Stuart McInally, Jamie Bhatti, Javan Sebastian, Henderson and Josh Bayliss in place to cover the forwards, and Jamie Dobie, Blair Kinghorn and Cameron Redpath named to bolster the backs.”

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Scotland (vs Italy, Saturday):
15. Ollie Smith (Glasgow Warriors) 3 caps
14. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby) 33 caps
13. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, vice-captain) 42 caps
12. Stafford McDowall (Glasgow Warriors) uncapped
11. Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) 10 caps
10. Ben Healy (Edinburgh Rugby) 1 cap
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) 61 caps
1. Rory Sutherland (unattached) 23 caps
2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 35 caps
3. Murphy Walker (Glasgow Warriors) 2 caps
4. Sam Skinner (Edinburgh Rugby, vice-captain) 25 caps
5. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) 25 caps
6. Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) 4 caps
7. Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors, captain) 7 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 33 caps

Replacements:
16. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) 47 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 29 caps
18. Javan Sebastian (Edinburgh Rugby) 3 caps
19. Cameron Henderson (Leicester Tigers) uncapped
20. Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby) 3 caps
21. Jamie Dobie (Glasgow Warriors) 1 cap
22. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 43 caps
23. Cameron Redpath (Bath Rugby) 5 caps

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Turlough 4 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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