Rory Darge will make his first start for Scotland on Saturday when they take on France in the third match of this year’s Guinness Six Nations Championship at BT Murrayfield.
The Glasgow Warriors flanker made his international debut at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff earlier this month and is named alongside Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury in a new-look starting back-row. Bradbury has been involved in the two previous Six Nations matches but will start his first game for Scotland since 2020 on Saturday.
Exeter Chiefs’ Sam Skinner replaces his club teammate Jonny Gray, who is ruled out through injury, in the second row and will partner Edinburgh Rugby’s Grant Gilchrist fresh from collecting his 50th cap in Cardiff.
Edinburgh Rugby duo Pierre Schoeman and Stuart McInally retain their front row berths from the Wales v Scotland match with Glasgow Warriors’ Zander Fagerson returning to the starting line-up.
Glasgow Warriors centre Sione Tuipulotu starts for a second consecutive game at inside centre, alongside Gloucester Rugby’s Chris Harris in midfield.
Worcester Warriors’ Duhan van der Merwe continues on the left wing with Edinburgh’s Darcy Graham occupying the right-wing position after his try scoring appearance in Wales.
Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price and Racing 92’s Finn Russell are the half-back pairing for the sixth game in a row and Exeter Chiefs full-back Stuart Hogg will lead the team out 10 years on from his first start for Scotland, against France in 2012.
In the replacements Glasgow Warriors’ hooker George Turner and Edinburgh Rugby prop WP Nel are named along with Oli Kebble who is included after joining the squad this week.
Edinburgh Rugby’s Jamie Hodgson and Nick Haining will be aiming to make their first appearances in this year’s Guinness Six Nations off the bench. Hodgson made his Scotland debut in the Autumn Nations Series against Tonga and featured in two subsequent matches.
London Irish’s Ben White is once again selected as well as Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn.
Kinghorn’s teammate at club level, Mark Bennett, makes his return to a Scotland squad for the first time since 2018 and will start from the bench. The centre has impressed for Edinburgh this season and will look to add to his 22 caps in an international career that has seen him start on 17 occasions and score six tries.
Scotland team to face France in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations at BT Murrayfield live on BBC One, Saturday, 26 February – kick-off 2.15pm.
15. Stuart Hogg – Exeter Chiefs – (Captain) – 90 caps
14. Darcy Graham – Edinburgh Rugby – 24 caps
13. Chris Harris – Gloucester Rugby – 33 caps
12. Sione Tuipulotu – Glasgow Warriors – 3 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe – Worcester Warriors – 15 caps
10. Finn Russell – Racing 92 – (Vice-Captain) – 60 caps
9. Ali Price – Glasgow Warriors – 48 caps
1. Pierre Schoeman – Edinburgh Rugby – 6 caps
2. Stuart McInally – Edinburgh Rugby – 45 caps
3. Zander Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors – 44 caps
4. Sam Skinner – Exeter Chiefs – 17 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist – Edinburgh Rugby – (Vice-Captain) – 50 caps
6. Rory Darge – Glasgow Warriors – 1 cap
7. Hamish Watson – Edinburgh Rugby – 47 caps
8. Magnus Bradbury – Edinburgh Rugby – 16 caps
16. George Turner – Glasgow Warriors – 22 caps
17. Oli Kebble – Glasgow Warriors – 11 caps
18. WP Nel – Edinburgh Rugby – 45 caps
19. Jamie Hodgson – Edinburgh Rugby – 3 caps
20. Nick Haining – Edinburgh Rugby – 10 caps
21. Ben White – London Irish – 2 caps
22. Blair Kinghorn – Edinburgh Rugby – 29 caps
23. Mark Bennett – Edinburgh Rugby – 22 caps
Meanwhile France also announced their matchday 23.
Aki Banned For Eight Weeks
Aki will be unavailable for the westerners’ next five URC games, including the derby clashes with Munster and Leinster, and will also miss at least the first two of Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series fixtures.
He will definitely be absent for the Tests against South Africa and Fiji, but could return to face Australia on Saturday, November 19 if he ‘successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme’.
After an act of foul play against Stormers winger Seabelo Senatla, referee Gianluca Gnecchi showed Aki a red card in the 60th minute of the game under law 9.20(a).
The particular law states that a player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul.
In his responses to the judicial officer overseeing the disciplinary process (Pamela Woodman from Scotland), Aki had accepted that he had committed an act of foul play which warranted a red card.
She determined that his actions towards Senatla were reckless and took into account, among other things, the speed, force and high degree of danger in his actions.
Ms. Woodman determined that, had it been based on this conduct alone, the offending would have been categorised as mid-range on the scale of seriousness.
However, she also considered Aki’s actions and demeanour towards the referee in connection with the issue of the red card, which she found did not meet the expected standards of conduct or respect.
This was also taken into account (in accordance with URC’s disciplinary rules) in determining that his offending was at the top-end on the scale of seriousness, which warranted an entry point sanction of 10 weeks.
The judicial officer then considered if there were any mitigating factors and found that Aki’s acceptance that he had committed an act of foul play (during the off-field disciplinary process), expression of remorse, apologies to both the opposing player and referee, and willingness to engage with his provincial coaching staff on a plan to address this issue, were relevant mitigating factors.
These mitigating factors warranted a reduction in the sanction of four weeks.
Aki’s previous suspensions for red cards in 2019 and 2021 for foul play involving head contact, as well as his suspension and warning for previous conduct relating to interactions with referees, were considered aggravating factors, which the judicial officer decided warranted a further two weeks of sanction.
As a result, the Ireland international will be suspended for a period of eight weeks. As previously stated, should he complete the Coaching Intervention programme then the sanction will be reduced by one week.
Fixtures Bundee Aki is unavailable for:
Vodacom Bulls v Connacht, September 30, BKT URC
Connacht v Munster, October 7, BKT URC
Connacht v Leinster, October 14, BKT URC
Connacht v Scarlets, October 21, BKT URC
Ospreys v Connacht, October 29, BKT URC
Ireland v South Africa, November 5, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Fiji, November 12, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Australia, November 19, Autumn Nations Series (substituted if the player successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme)
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Jones names squad for training camp
England will begin preparations for their four home Autumn Nations Series fixtures in November during the camp. The squad will meet in Richmond on Sunday 2 October and train at Twickenham Stadium.
First call-ups for camp include Northampton Saints’ Alex Coles and Saracens’ Hugh Tizard, both players having previously appeared for England U20s.
Manu Tuilagi and Sam Simmonds are back in the squad following injury and there are returns for Ben Youngs, Alex Mitchell, Tom Pearson and David Ribbans.
England face Argentina in the first of their four matches at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday 6 November (2.15pm KO). They will then host Japan on Saturday 12 November (3.15pm KO), followed by New Zealand on Saturday 19 November (5.30pm KO). Their final match is against South Africa on Saturday 26 November (5.30pm KO).
“With a year to go to the Rugby World Cup, this is a big opportunity for players to come in and impress,” said Jones. “We want them to show real energy and enthusiasm and that they want to be a part of this massive year.
“It doesn’t mean that those who have been left out won’t be considered for the Autumn Nations Series matches. We’ll be looking at club games, form and fitness and the door is left open for those players.
“We finished the Australia tour well. It was a fantastic experience, particularly for the younger players. We now have to start again, but we’ll build on what we’ve done there and continue that momentum.”
Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)
Alex Coles (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 37 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 41 caps)
Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 39 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 69 caps)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)
Jonny Hill (Sale Sharks, 15 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 14 caps)
Tom Pearson (London Irish, uncapped)
David Ribbans (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, 2 caps)
Patrick Schickerling (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 14 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 23 caps)
Hugh Tizard (Saracens, uncapped)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 64 caps)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 70 caps)
Jack Walker (Harlequins, uncapped)
Jack Willis (Wasps, 4 caps)
Henry Arundell (London Irish, 3 caps)
Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 97 caps)
Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints, 2 caps)
George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 6 caps)
Will Joseph (London Irish, 1 cap)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 69 caps)
Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 1 cap)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 42 caps)
Guy Porter (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 13 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 13 caps)
Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 46 caps)
Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 3 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 117 caps)
Unavailable for selection due to injury: Alfie Barbeary, Nic Dolly, Alex Dombrandt, Charlie Ewels, George Ford, Sam Jeffries, Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Anthony Watson.
New governance structure agreed for rugby in Scotland
Scottish Rugby President Colin Rigby hailed a “significant milestone” for the game in Scotland when member clubs agreed a new governance structure at an online special general meeting last night.
The new structure, based on the recommendations on the Standing Committee on Governance (SCOG), sees the new Scottish Rugby Union (a company limited by guarantee) take on the responsibility for the oversight of the organisation’s main operating vehicle, Scottish Rugby.
It also will provide an oversight function to the organisation’s members.
Professor Lorne Crerar CBE, Interim Chair of the new Scottish Rugby Union, pledged to the SGM that “all the promises for a new, well-functioning governance system will absolutely be delivered.”
Professor Crerar also called on the membership to play its part in finding the “very best talent” to serve as “custodians” on the new company’s board.
Colin Rigby thanked members, SCOG, the Scottish Rugby Council and Scottish Rugby’s employees for their patience, while the new structure was arrived at.
He added: “This is a significant milestone in the history of the Scottish Rugby Union where all stakeholders now have clarity around governance, roles and responsibility.”
John Jeffrey remains chairman of the Scottish Rugby Board which will continue to oversee the day-to-day operational, commercial and executive functions of Scottish Rugby.
Earlier tonight, members voted unanimously to receive Scottish Rugby’s financial statements for 2021-22 at the second part of the organisation’s AGM.
During the period, overall revenue returned to within 5% of pre-pandemic levels at £57.9million, a rise of £5.5million from the previous year.
The accounts showed a deficit of £5.3 million on the base business, while the strategic investment from private equity partners CVC drove a gain on disposal of investment of £34.2million, bringing Scottish Rugby’s net surplus after tax to £29million for the year.
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