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What Gregor Townsend makes of his four uncapped Scotland starters

By PA

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Scotland coach Gregor Townsend had described the various characteristics of the four uncapped players he has included in his starting XV to face Tonga next Saturday – Edinburgh duo Jamie Hodgson and Pierre Schoeman, as well as Glasgow pair Sione Tuipulotu and Rufus McLean.

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“Jamie will bring an edge. We love his attitude of getting up and knocking people down. He is a really aggressive player,” enthused Townsend ahead of what will be the first match for Scotland since their late March win away to France in the Six Nations.  

“Pierre is in really good physical shape this year. He has lost a bit of weight. He is involved more in attack and defence than we saw last season and he also brings his set-piece power, which will be required this weekend against a very big Tongan team.

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Sione is a really creative player. He likes to get others into the game but he has also got his own power and acceleration. He can be a real connector between the midfield and the back three.

“Rufus makes things happen. He has got real acceleration and evasion. We are also impressed this season with his work off the ball. His kick-chase is outstanding and also his contact work is very good. He brings that work rate that is required at Test level.”

Elsewhere, Townsend has chosen co-captains for this Saturday’s series opener as he wants to see both Ali Price and Jamie Ritchie continue their development as leaders. Glasgow scrum-half Price, 28, and Edinburgh flanker Ritchie, 25, will share skipper duties at Murrayfield. It is the first time that Townsend has picked co-captains.

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He said: “It’s something both Ali and Jamie would have had the experience of at their clubs. Co-captains are something Glasgow over a number of years and Edinburgh this year have used. It is new for us at international level but we feel it’s a really good opportunity to enable both Jamie and Ali to get that leadership experience.

“They have been vice-captains before and Jamie was set to be captain in the summer (before the matches were scrapped because of Covid). We see Jamie and Ali developing into leaders. One being a back and one being a forward means they should complement each other.”

Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn, who has won 25 Scotland caps on the wing or at full-back, returns to the side for the first time in almost a year in his new guise as a fly-half. Townsend added: “It’s a chance to get a further game in that position so he can learn and improve. 

“He has started the season really well at ten. Getting to play at ten happened for him at the end of last season and it’s been followed through this season under Mike Blair at Edinburgh.

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“He has really engaged in playing there. It is something that excites him and is a good focus for him over the next few weeks or however long he plays in that position. I’m looking forward to seeing him play there.”

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What Gregor Townsend makes of his four uncapped Scotland starters

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