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Scotland explain Sione Tuipulotu promotion and front row strategy

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Scotland boss Gregor Townsend has explained why he has opted to start Test level rookie Sione Tuipulotu at No12 this week following his efforts off the Guinness Six Nations bench last week in the win over England. The Australian, who turns 25 years old on the same day of this Saturday’s match versus Wales, was previously a starter at outside centre on his debut in the recent Autumn Nations Series win over Tonga. 

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He wasn’t selected for any of the three Scotland games that followed but he made the bench versus the English at the start of the championship and has now been elevated into the starting side at the expense of Sam Johnson, who drops out of the matchday squad entirely as Cameron Redpath has taken the place of Tuipulotu on the bench. 

A former Australian U20s player, Tuipulotu qualifies for Scotland through his grandmother and his selection for his third Test cap was one of five changes unveiled by Townsend for the upcoming match in Cardiff.

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“He is a different player to Sam and Cam, the other guys that would have been in consideration for twelve,” outlined the Scotland boss about his decision to tinker with his midfield by upgrading Tuipulotu. “He is a very creative player, we love that about him. We love his detail as well, he is very loud in attack and defence on the training field but he can bring others into play. 

“He has also got his own running game, which he showed for Glasgow over the last few weeks. So all those things are going to be important, defence is probably going to be the number one. When you come into our side and you come into our midfield, you know you have to defend very well. That is something he has been doing really well in training.” 

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Replacement back-rower Sam Skinner has been named at blindside in place of the injured Jamie Ritchie, who will miss the remainder of the championship, while Townsend has also altered his entire front row, promoting last weekend’s three replacements – Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally and WP Nel – and holding his three round one starters – Rory Sutherland, George Turner and Zander Fagerson and George Turner, in reserve this week.  

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“Regarding the front row last week we looked at getting a fresh front row on at a certain point in the game and it is now their opportunity to start but we will be looking to bring the reserve front row on together like we did last week,” explained Townsend. 

Much hype now surrounds Scotland following their latest win over England but they are now looking for victory in Cardiff where they haven’t been successful since April 2002 and their coach has highlighted areas of their game that need improving following on from last weekend at Murrayfield.     

We didn’t get our set-piece attack going at the weekend, mainly at lineout in that first half, so showing more accuracy there, getting into our phases to allow our best decision-makers to play in the right areas, whether that is to keep ball in hand, which part of the defence to put the ball behind the defence. 

“In the first half, we weren’t able to generate those opportunities. We did in the second half and that was great to see as conditions were poor. From a set-piece point of view, our lineout did go well in terms of winning ball but there is more we can do there in terms of our maul, our defence. 

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“There was a lot of resets and shenanigans going on in that scrum and I also feel that our defence can improve. We were happy with a few aspects of it but we can go up another level this week.”

Having ticked off rare away wins in last year’s Six Nations in London and Paris, Cardiff is next on the Scotland hitlist but Townsend has warned that Wales weren’t as poor as they were made to look by Ireland in Dublin last weekend. 

“You are better in your second game normally in the Six Nations,” he suggested. “First game things don’t go smoothly. If you are going up against a top side like Ireland, who have got lots of momentum and you are playing them away from home, then you may struggle to get into the game early on, but I felt the second quarter and parts of the second half they were equal to Ireland. 

“They created chances and they showed that their defence can get turnovers so we know they will be better for that game and they are a top side with great players right throughout the XV.

“We have not been there (in Cardiff) in four years and a lot has happened to this team. We have had experiences against some top sides both home and away and we have shown resilience in these games. We have not won them all but I believe the Test we had in Paris, the Test we had in Twickenham sets us up for what will be a great challenge this week in a full stadium and one of the best venues in the world.”

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