Duncan Taylor returns to Scotland starting line-up for Rugby World Cup warm-up Test against France

Gregor Townsend has named his squad for the Summer Test opener against France in Nice on Saturday.

By Patrick McPartlin
Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 1:33 pm
Duncan Taylor takes part in a Scotland training session - the centre has been handed his first start for the national team in two years
Duncan Taylor takes part in a Scotland training session - the centre has been handed his first start for the national team in two years

The match in the French Riviera is the first of four fixtures aimed at helping the head coach refine his team ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan next month.

Four players - Glasgow centre Nick Grigg, Edinburgh scrum-half Henry Pyrgos, Glasgow wing/centre Kyle Steyn and Newcastle back-row forward Gary Graham - have already been allowed to return to their clubs after being cut from the training squad.

Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally, whose try sparked Scotland's dramatic comeback in the Calcutta Cup and subsequent retention of the trophy in the Six Nations finale, is again named as captain with Exeter Chiefs' Stuart Hogg and McInally's club colleague John Barclay, back from injury, named as vice-captains.

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Barclay hasn't played for Scotland since March last year after rupturing his Achilles in his final match for former club Scarlets against Glasgow, but has been given the chance to prove his fitness ahead of Townsend naming his final squad for Japan on September 3.

McInally is joined in an all-Edinburgh front-row by recent signing Jamie Bhatti at loosehead and Simon Berghan at tighthead, while two more representatives of the Capital club, Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis, continue in the second-row.

Barclay and Jamie Ritchie complete Edinburgh's contribution in the back-row with Josh Strauss of Blue Bulls selected at number 8.

Glasgow Warriors stand-off Adam Hastings gets the nod for his first start since the 2018 Autumn Test win over Argentina. He is joined by club-mate Ali Price at scrum-half, while a first-time partnership of Saracens' Duncan Taylor and Warriors' Huw Jones is named in the midfield.

Taylor's inclusion is something of a surprise, with the 29-year-old not long back from a double cruciate ligament injury. He damaged both the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee during a match in September last year, and the 21-cap centre has played just ten matches since the start of the 2017/18 season.

His last outing in dark blue came in the 27-22 defeat to Fiji during the summer tour of the Pacific in 2017. The versatile centre - who can also operate across the back-three - was tipped to be in contention for a place in Townsend's World Cup squad by Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall, and the Northampton-born player will now look to secure one of the 31 spots on the plane to the Far East.

Hogg will anchor the back-three alongside Edinburgh's Darcy Graham, who impressed during the Six Nations earlier this year, and Sale Sharks wing Byron McGuigan.

Just two uncapped players are named in the 23, with Glasgow Warriors lock Scott Cummings and Northampton Saints centre Rory Hutchinson named among the replacements. Both have featured at age-grade for Scotland with Hutchinson scoring 33 points in 20 appearances for Scotland Under-20s between 2014 and 2016.

Cummings is one of five Glasgow players on the bench, joining George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Matt Fagerson and George Horne, while Gordon Reid of Ayrshire Bulls and Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn complete the replacements.

Glasgow-born second-rower Cummings was called into Townsend's squad for the Autumn internationals in 2017 but is yet to make his bow for the national team while Hutchinson could also earn his first cap if called upon this Saturday.

Townsend said: “A huge amount of work has gone in throughout the past two months in order to deliver our best level of performance in the Rugby World Cup.

“These four Tests are a vital part of that process in terms of testing our systems and combinations but also in seeing which players put their best foot forward when it comes to selection for the final 31-man group going to Japan next month.”

The match will be shown live on Premier Sports, with an 8pm BST kick-off time.