Wholesale changes to Scotland team to take on Australia

Josh Strauss and John Barclay do some stretching exercises at the Coogee Oval, Sydney. Pic: Fotosport/David Gibson
Josh Strauss and John Barclay do some stretching exercises at the Coogee Oval, Sydney. Pic: Fotosport/David Gibson
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Greig Tonks and Lee Jones have been recalled to a much-changed Scotland side for Saturday’s Test against Australia.

Head coach Gregor Townsend has never been shy of altering a winning team and has done so again, with eight new faces and three positional changes in the matchday XV compared to the team which defeated Italy 34-13.

Of the four tryscorers last week, three have been left out – Tim Visser because he has not recovered from a rib injury, with Ross Ford and Damien Hoyland rested.

Ford claimed two scores against Italy but has to be satisfied with a place on the bench and, if he comes on, he will match the Scotland caps record of 109 held by Chris Paterson.

“It is a brilliant achievement,” said Townsend. “It shows a great level of consistency in a game that has changed a lot.

“Not only that but he has been one of our best performers. Two tries last week were pretty good as well.

“This is a great achievement but we also believe he can carry on playing and have a big role up to and including the World Cup.”

Explaining the changes, he added: “On this tour, we were always keen to make sure that players who were close to selection got an opportunity. A few got it last week, a few who were close to selection get it this week.

“When you put a squad together, you first put a team together that you believe can win. You want to see which players are able to perform at Test level and give them that opportunity, it is up to them after that.

“On this tour, I do believe, a lot of positions are very competitive.”

The changes see the two front-row units swapped in their entirety, the Glasgow trio starting and their Edinburgh counterparts on the bench.

Jonny Gray comes in to partner Ben Toolis in the second row and Hamish Watson has recovered from his groin injury to start at flanker, with John Barclay shifting to the blindside and Ryan Wilson to No.8 to accommodate him.

After playing out of position at full-back last week, Duncan Taylor reverts to centre where he partners Alex Dunbar. There is an entirely fresh back three, with Tonks returning at full-back for his first cap since 2015 and Jones on the wing for his first since 2012.

Tonks was a late call-up to the squad but Townsend said he has no worries about including him, even though he spent last season in the Championship with London Irish.

“He has played very well, we have watched a lot of his games,” Townsend insisted.

“The way he plays fits in with the way we have been training... he is a very good passer, makes good decisions, can step up at first or second receiver, has a good kicking game. That balance with Finn [Russell] at 10, left foot, right foot, is important.

“He has played regularly at full-back and one aspect of the Wallabies game, as we saw last week, is their aerial game, especially with Israel Folau being so good in the air. One try [against Fiji] came directly from a kick and they were unlucky not to score a second one in a similar situation.”

Australia will hand former NRL winger Eto Nabuli a Test debut as the Wallabies make one change to the XV that beat Fiji.

Cross-code convert Nabuli comes in for Henry Speight, who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury after scoring two tries in Saturday’s 37-14 win over the Fijians in Melbourne.

Australia coach Michael Cheika said of Fiji-born Nabuli, 28, “He’s been very physical and been working hard so I thought it was a good opportunity to give him a reward.

“I think he’s had that little bit more edge during the two weeks we’ve been together.

“He’s really knuckled down on his knowledge. He’s been very enthusiastic as well, some big strong running and I think he’s merited the opportunity.

“Also throughout the season, I think his improvement from last year to this year has been excellent and I suppose that’s a good form guide to when someone’s improving.”

Nabuli, who swapped codes to join the Queensland Reds last year, becomes the fifth Wallabies debutant this month after Ned Hanigan, Richard Hardwick, Karmichael Hunt and Joe Powell all made their international bows at the weekend.

Lock Hanigan and centre Hunt – another former rugby league player – have retained their place in Australia’s starting line-up as Cheika keeps changes to a minimum for the Allianz Stadium showdown with Scotland.