There is a lot of optimism surrounding Scottish rugby at the moment. Gregor Townsend has built on the great work done by Vern Cotter, turning Scotland from perennial wooden spoon contenders to a potential championship contenders. With three games at the Murrayfield fortress this year, Scotland will be eyeing the Italy game as a way to make a statement on opening weekend.
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Full-back can only go to one man: Stuart Hogg. The Exeter bound full-back is pretty much the best in the business, and is one of Scotland’s most important players. Right wing is a tight call, with Blair Kinghorn coming very close but Gregor Townsend will probably stick with tried and tested for his wingers, with Tommy Seymour on one, and Sean Maitland on the other. Kinghorn will more than likely get on the pitch, and Darcy Graham will bring some Sevens magic if he gets some
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13 is likely to go to Huw Jones. The former Stormer has made the Scotland outside centre spot his own since he arrived back from South Africa. Jones is one of the best in the world, but will face competition from Nick Grigg. The 12 jersey is a harder call. Sam Johnson was in pole position to make his Scotland debut, and could still do so, but is in doubt for the opening rounds as he is recovering from a concussion. Until then, Townsend will likely stick with Pete Horne.
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The dream team. The eccentric maverick kept in check by the calm, calculated general. The old cliche about France can also be applied to Finn Russell. You never know which Finn is going to turn up. Six Nations last year a case in point. Has a stinker against France, gets hooked for Greig Laidlaw of all people to go to 10. Next game, has the performance of his life to help Scotland win the Calcutta Cup. Greig Laidlaw has his critics: in the eyes of many his delivery is as slow as a wet Monday, but the fact is, Scotland are a much better team when Laidlaw plays.
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Scotland have been absolutely slaughtered by injuries to their flankers. Townsend’s first choice trio of Johnny Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson are all injured, with the latter likely to make a return late in the tournament. Jamie Ritchie is likely to get one flank. The Edinburgh man played both sides in the Autumn, but will probably take the blindside spot to accommodate the return of John Hardie. Hardie is back in business at Newcastle Falcons after some months out of the game. The Kiwi born flanker was first choice before his enforced sabbatical from the game and will be dying for the opportunity to get back on the international stage. Number 8 is a harder question. Josh Strauss has been there in the past, but has a tendency to be lazy, even if his ballcarrying is some of the best available to Scotland. It will be between Strauss and David Denton, fitness dependent on both counts.
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Jonny Gray is one of the most reliable players in the game. Nobody works harder, and tackles non stop, almost going a whole season without missing one. Sam Skinner is new to the Scotland setup, and looks like he’ll be there for years to come. The Exeter Chief put in a man of the match performance on his first start in the Autumn, and looks likely to beat Grant Gilchrist to the starting spot.
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The most exciting news here is at tighthead; WP Nel is back. The Edinburgh prop was making a name for himself as one of the best in the world before his run of injuries set him back. Nel will turn the Scottish scrum into an absolute weapon. All-action hooker Stuart McInally will take the 2 jersey, with Allan Dell likely to round out the front row.
15. Stuart Hogg
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Huw Jones
12. Pete Horne
11. Sean Maitland
10. Finn Russell
9. Greig Laidlaw
8. Josh Strauss
7. John Hardie
6. Jamie Ritchie
5. Jonny Gray
4. Sam Skinner
3. Willem Nel
2. Stuart McInally
1. Allan Dell
World Rugby applies 50/22 law trial globally, bolster concussion protocol
World Rugby announced on Wednesday five law trials which will start next month, including a so-called “50/22” kicking adaptation.
The 50/22 change allows a team to gain a throw-in inside the opposition’s 22-metre area by kicking the ball to touch with at least one bounce from their own half.
The rule was used in recent Super Rugby tournaments and its primary intention is to “encourage the defensive team to put more players in the backfield, thereby creating more attacking space and reducing defensive line speed”, according to the sport’s governing body.
The other laws to come into force on a temporary basis from August 1 include a goal-line drop-out if the ball is held up in the in-goal area, if there is a knock-on from an attacking player in the same area or an attacking kick is grounded by the defenders in their own in-goal.
There are also restrictions on attacking players latching onto team-mates from a ruck and clean-outs which target or drop weight onto the lower limbs at the breakdown.
The final trial allows for a one-player latch before contact, but the individual must “observe all of the requirements for a first arriving player, particularly the need to stay on their feet”.
World Rugby has also moved to strengthen concussion protocols, with independent specialists set to review cases when Test players return to action after a head injury.
They will launch a panel of Independent Concussion Consultants (ICCs) to provide expert opinion on whether players are ready to return to action after head knocks.
The global governing body will fully fund the process for Test-level competitions, with ICCs asked to rule when players look to return to action 10 days or fewer after a concussion or on players deemed higher risk due to previous head-injury history.
England name 8 new caps for USA clash
Eddie Jones has named his England team for this weekend’s Test match against USA.
Eight uncapped players are set to make their debuts at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday 4 July (2pm KO).
Lewis Ludlow will captain the side at blind-side flanker, with Sam Underhill at open-side flanker and Callum Chick at No.8.
Ellis Genge (loose-head prop) will be vice-captain and is joined by Curtis Langdon (hooker) and Joe Heyes (tight-head prop) in the front row.
Locks Josh McNally and Charlie Ewels complete the tight five.
Henry Slade, the most-capped player in the squad, will be at outside centre with Ollie Lawrence at inside centre. Marcus Smith will start at fly half and Harry Randall is at scrum half.
Freddie Steward is at full back, while Max Malins (left) and Joe Cokanasiga (right) are on the wings in attack.
Among the finishers there are four further uncapped players who could make their first appearance for England – Jamie Blamire, Trevor Davison, Ben Curry and Jacob Umaga. Beno Obano, Ted Hill, Lewis Ludlam and Dan Robson are also named as finishers.
Jones said: “Over the past three weeks our biggest message to the players is what an opportunity this is to show what they can do and make their mark with England.
“They’ve applied themselves as a group and worked very hard individually during this camp to reach their personal bests.
“Now it’s all about coming together as a team, gelling and putting in a good performance at the weekend.”
England v USA is live on Channel 4, with coverage starting from 1.30pm.
England XV Starters
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
14. Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 9 caps)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 38 caps)
12. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors, 6 caps)
11. Max Malins (Saracens, 7 caps)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, uncapped)
9. Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, uncapped)
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 28 caps)
2. Curtis Langdon (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
3. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
4. Josh McNally (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
5. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 21 caps)
6. Lewis Ludlow (C) (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 22 caps)
8. Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
16. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
17. Beno Obano (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)
18. Trevor Davison (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
19. Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 1 cap)
20. Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
21. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 8 caps)
22. Dan Robson (Wasps, 12 caps)
23. Jacob Umaga (Wasps, uncapped)
James Ryan starts for Ireland v Japan
The Ireland coaching team have named the Ireland match day squad to face Japan at the Aviva Stadium in the opening fixture of the Vodafone Summer Series.
James Ryan will wear the captain’s armband on Saturday and will be partnered in the second row by Ultan Dillane.
Peter O’Mahony starts on the blindside flank and is joined in the backrow by Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris, who makes his international return after missing the 2021 Six Nations Championships.
The front row is made up of Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Finlay Bealham.
The replacements include Rob Herring, Ed Byrne, John Ryan, Ryan Baird, the uncapped Gavin Coombes, Craig Casey, Billy Burns and Shane Daly.
Last weekend Jamie Joseph’s Brave Blossoms made the British and Irish Lions work hard for their 28-10 victory in Murrayfield.
Five Ireland players – Chris Farrell, Jacob Stockdale, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony and James Ryan started against Japan in the last encounter between the two sides at the 2019 Rugby World Cup with Dave Kilcoyne, Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour featuring off the bench that day in Shizuoka.
The match will be televised by RTE (ROI) Channel 4 (NI) and kicks off at 1.00pm.
Vodafone Summer Series 2021
Ireland team to play Japan – 3rd July 2021, Aviva Stadium
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 11 caps
14. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 29 caps
13. Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
12. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 34 caps
10. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 22 caps
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 43 caps
2. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 11 caps
3. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 14 caps
4. Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps captain
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 75 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 31 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 21 caps
17. Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
18. John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 23 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 3 caps
20. Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped
21. Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 1 cap
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
23. Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 1 cap
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Lions make 3 changes for 2nd Test v SA
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