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Scotland Ring Changes for Georgian Test

Scotland have made a total of ten changes as they prepare to face Georgia in a World Cup warm-up game

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(Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made 10 changes to his side from the one that faced France last weekend for this weekend’s clash with Georgia.

Centre Sam Johnson returns to the line-up for the first time in these warm-up games and is joined by Rory Hutchinson who is making his first start for the Scots.

Townsend is delighted to welcome Johnson back and is expecting a tough test in Tbilisi on Saturday.

“We’re pleased to welcome Sam back into the side having performed so well for us in the spring, while a number of other players also get the opportunity to build on Saturday’s performance. There were improvements in our back-to-back games against France, in particular in defence, game management and at scrum, as well some elements of our attack. All of these will be put to the test against a very good Georgian side who we expect to be extremely motivated by their passionate home support. We’re expecting a very physical and confrontational encounter, which will be a great test for our squad. In order to rise to this challenge, we must take the game to our hosts right from the start, playing with relentless effort and accuracy,” he said.

In the front-row Stuart McInally captains the side from hooker and will have WP Nel and Allen Dell either side of him, while Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist begin in the engine room.

There is a powerful back-row in place as John Barclay and Hamish Watson start on the flanks either side of Matt Fagerson who opens at No 8.

Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell are the half-back partnership, with Johnson and Hutchinson outside them in the centre.

Sean Maitland continues on the left-wing, while Darcy Graham comes in on the right for the injured Tommy Seymour and Blair Kinghorn finishes the XV from full-back in what is a first start of the season for the Edinburgh man.

Scotland’s trip to Tbilisi is the first ever visit to Georgia by a tier one country and will be the final chance for many players to try and earn a place on the plane to Japan for the Rugby World Cup with Townsend set to name his squad on September 3rd.

Scotland open up their World Cup campaign with a clash against Ireland on September 22nd where they will hope to make a good start in a bid to progress to the quarter finals of the competition.

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

Starting XV:

15. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 13 caps

14. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 5 caps

13. Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints) – 2 caps

12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps

11. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 41 caps

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) – 44 caps

9. Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne) 72 caps

1. Allan Dell (London Irish) – 23 caps

2. Stuart McInally (captain – Edinburgh) – 28 caps

3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh) – 30 caps

4. Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) – 19 caps

5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 35 caps

6. John Barclay (Edinburgh) – 73 caps

7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 26 caps

8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps

Replacements:

16. Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 cap

17. Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh) – 14 caps

18. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 20 caps

19. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – 2 caps

20. Josh Strauss (Blue Bulls) – 23 caps

21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 25 caps

22. Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 12 caps

23. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 22 caps

International

Jones Confirms his 2021 Lions Ambitions

Alun Wyn Jones has discussed his plans for the future as well as his thoughts on the past year in Welsh Rugby

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(Photo credit PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Image)

Wales star Alun Wyn Jones has admitted that he has hopes of making it to the British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa in 2021.

The towering second-row is considered to be one of the best in his position of all-time and if he were to make it to the tour he would be edging towards 35-years of age, and a fourth tour with the Lions. However, he is aware that he will need to be at the peak of his powers to be considered and is trying not to look too far ahead. 

“I am not going to lie, I am aware it’s there, but it’s a two-pronged answer. You are never going to say never, but you don’t want to be too greedy as well. I am fully aware you have to be fit and playing well to be selected. If the planets align and I am potentially still there, then it’s somebody else’s decision. The losses still hurt but they inspire you to go on as well. It does spur you on and make you want to go again,” he said. 

The lock appears to have turned back the years and seems to be playing his best rugby over the past year, having lead his side to a Six Nations Grand Slam and a fourth-place finish at the Rugby World Cup, as well as reaching the No 1 spot of the World Rugby rankings for the first time in the country’s history. 

However, the man who has overseen his growth in the national side, Warren Gatland, has stepped aside as head coach following his 12-year stay, with Wayne Pivac coming in and Jones is excited by the prospect of the new era ahead.

“One of the highlights of the year was the Grand Slam, but you also look at the likes of Josh Adams, Aaron Wainwright, Tomos Williams and others. People have had opportunities and stood up. That’s probably as big as a Grand Slam and with a new coach, it’s exciting times. I’ve sat down with him (Pivac) on a few occasions,” he added. 

Jones has confirmed that he will use his pain from losing out on the Rugby World Cup title to push on with his new head coach. 

“We are carrying a bit of hurt from the World Cup. I am on a personal level because we went out there believing we could win it. Having had the Sunday morning after Grand Slams and Championships and winning trophies you want that. Warren was honest, consistent and essentially really proud of what he did and what he created with Wales. The phrase has been coined that it’s Wayne’s World now. Wayne is going to do it in his way but carry on with some of the foundations that have been laid,” he finished up. 

Jones will be hoping to push on in the new year as Wales look to defend their Six Nations crown, while he will also continue his own individual push towards becoming the most-capped international player of all-time after going second this year. 

If he can keep up his current form over the next 18-months, he will surely be in contention for the Lions and could even be named captain as he would be reunited with his old friend Gatland, who will coach the side for a third successive tour.

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International

New All Blacks Head Coach Confirmed

The All Blacks have announced their new head coach following Steve Hansen’s departure at the end of the Rugby World Cup

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The All Blacks have announced that Ian Foster will take on the role of head coach come 2020.

Foster, who was assistant to former head coach Steve Hansen for eight-years has signed a two-year deal with New Zealand and admitted he is over the moon to be given the opportunity to lead the team forward. 

“I feel truly privileged and honoured to be given this opportunity and I can’t wait to lead the team into the next chapter of what is a remarkable legacy. I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved in the All Blacks over the last eight years and I’m excited and energised by a new coaching team who will join me. It’s incredibly humbling to be appointed to the job and I have a strong desire to serve the jersey well and represent New Zealand to the best of my ability,” he said. 

Foster came out on top of what is thought to have been a strong list of candidates for the position, with Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson closest to being handed the job besides Foster. 

New Zealand Rugby’s chairman Brent Impey was full of praise for his incoming head coach and noted how tough the interview process was for all candidates. 

“The NZR Board has today ratified Ian Foster as the new head coach of the All Blacks from 2020. He brings world-class international experience to the role, an incredibly strong coaching team, and we think he’ll do an outstanding job. The interview process was extensive and really difficult, which reflects the very strong applications from both candidates,” he said. 

He went on to confirm that Foster will have a strong set of back-room staff, but that they will announce them in due course, while he also congratulated the man who now takes the reins. 

“While we can’t confirm the full make-up of the coaching team today, we’re delighted with the quality they bring, they have a wide range of coaching experiences and are a diverse group of thinkers. On behalf of New Zealand Rugby, I want to congratulate Ian on his appointment, and we wish him well for this next phase in the All Blacks’ story,” he added. 

The likes of Warren Gatland and Jamie Joseph were among the candidates for the position, before withdrawing due to their own commitments to the Chiefs and Japan respectively. 

However, Foster already has the players behind him with star player Beauden Barrett stating previously that he was the best man for the job. Although with a two-year contract, there will be debate as to whether the All Blacks have a plan to bring a new man in come 2022 to replace the 54-year-old, maybe Robertson could be coming in after all.

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6 Nations

Double Injury Blow for Leinster

Leinster have been handed two big injuries to two of their key men as they head into the Christmas period

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(Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster have confirmed that star fly-half Johnny Sexton has suffered a medial tear in his right knee, while Ronan Kelleher has also had an injury set-back.

Sexton, who went off injured during Leinster’s 43-16 victory over Northampton Saints last Saturday, underwent scans on his knee yesterday and saw a specialist who revealed that he will miss between 6 and 8 weeks of action. 

The 34-year-old is set to miss the opening weekend’s of the 2020 Six Nations as a result, with the first fixture at home to Scotland on February 1st, with Wales coming to town a week later. 

It will remain to be seen how quickly he recovers, but the likelihood is that he will aim to be fit for Ireland’s third game away to England on the 23rd. 

However, his injury causes a slight selection headache for new head coach Andy Farrell, who at this moment is without Sexton and Joey Carbery, but the latter is expected to return from injury later this month. 

Although Sexton’s injury is a big blow, it could open the door once again for Connacht’s Jack Carty to get a run in the Irish line-up, while Leinster teammate Ross Byrne will take the reigns at club-level and with the form he is currently in, will fancy his chances of getting a call up to the national team having missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad. 

The injury also means that Sexton will miss all three of Leinster’s remaining Champions Cup pool fixtures as well as their three inter-provincial derbies over the coming month, with Byrne expected to be backed up by younger brother Harry and Ciaran Frawley. 

Although the bad news for both Leinster and Ireland doesn’t stop there with upcoming star hooker Ronan Kelleher expected to be side-lined for a period with a possible fractured hand, which he is thought to have suffered during last weekend’s game. 

It is thought that Kelleher was in poll position to earn his first call-up to the Irish side for the Six Nations after a blistering start to the season, but this may now dampen his hopes. 

Sean Cronin is believed to be nearing full-fitness once more, which would be a boost for both club and country as he could slot in seamlessly. 

The injuries are piling-up for Leinster, who will also miss centre Joe Tomane for the same period as Sexton through a hamstring injury, while Rory O’Loughlin will miss this weekend’s game with injury. 

James Ryan is also making his way through the back to play protocols after taking a knock to the head against the Saints, but could feature this Saturday. 

Leinster will hope that their squad can cope with the set-backs as they head into this weekend’s home fixture against Northampton, with younger stars now having the chance to lay a marker as the province look to make it 11 wins from 11 at the start of the season.

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