Scotland make 10 changes for Rugby World Cup opener

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made 10 changes to his side for their World Cup opener against Ireland at the International Stadium, Yokohama.

The starting team – of which two-thirds have previous World Cup experience – features a total of 630 Test caps for the fixture on Sunday.

Exeter Chiefs full-back Stuart Hogg and Saracens wing Sean Maitland return to the back-three to partner fellow British & Irish Lion and Glasgow Warriors wing Tommy Seymour.

Another pair of Lions – scrum-half Greig Laidlaw and fly-half Finn Russell – return to start at half-back, with Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor the only backs to be reinstated, in midfield.

Glasgow Warriors forwards Ryan Wilson and Jonny Gray are the only forwards to remain in the pack, which features the remaining six changes, including a new front-row trio of Allan Dell (London Irish), captain Stuart McInally and Willem Nel (both Edinburgh).

Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist returns to partner the reinstated Gray in the boiler house, while the capital club’s Hamish Watson and John Barclay join Wilson in the loose forwards.

“We’ve had a really productive week’s preparation in Nagasaki ahead of our arrival in Tokyo, with our players adapting to the time zone and weather conditions out here in Japan,” said Townsend.

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT

Your Scotland team to play Ireland in this Sunday’s Rugby World Cup Pool A opener in Yokohama has been announced!

Kick-off 4.45pm local time, 8.45am BST – Live on ITV#AsOne #RWC2019 pic.twitter.com/YcooIYciQ6

— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) September 20, 2019

“As we’ve got closer to the game our training has been more about fine-tuning the hard work that’s gone in over pre-season into a focus for Sunday’s game.

“Our team has a lot of experience playing together in major games for Scotland, with a bench capable of making a difference when required. That cohesion, experience and leadership is very valuable in a build-up to a match of this magnitude as well as during the 80 minutes on Sunday.”

Townsend added: “In Ireland we face a quality opposition who, over the past number of years, have earned the right to be the number one ranked side in the world.

“We know them well and are well aware of the strengths they possess throughout their squad. We expect them to play very well, as they did in their most recent games against Wales, so only our best performance will do in order to win.

“The prospect of facing them in the opening round of a Rugby World Cup is a fantastic challenge for our players and supporters around the world.”

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Allan Dell Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Ali Price, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Darcy Graham

Date: Sunday, September 22 Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama Kick-off: 16:45 local (08:45 BST, 07:45 GMT) Referee: Wayne Barnes (England) Assistant Referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Alexandre Ruiz (France) TMO: Graham Hughes (England)