Scotland have made a surprise change at scrum-half for their decisive Rugby World Cup Pool B clash with Ireland in Paris on Saturday. Ali Price has replaced Ben White, who has dropped out of the match-day 23. The rest of the team is the same as the one that lost to South Africa in their opening game.
Price gets the nod over White
Price, who plays for Glasgow Warriors, has 65 caps for Scotland and started the 84-0 thrashing of Romania last week. He will partner Finn Russell at half-back and outside them will be centres Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones. Price is known for his quick service and sniping runs, which could trouble the Irish defence.
White, who also plays for Glasgow, was Scotland’s first choice No 9 throughout the Six Nations and started the first two World Cup games against South Africa and Tonga. He is a more physical and defensive scrum-half, but his omission suggests that Scotland coach Gregor Townsend wants to play a more expansive and attacking game against Ireland.
Kinghorn reaches 50 caps milestone
The all-Edinburgh back three comprises in-form wingers Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe, with Blair Kinghorn at full-back. Kinghorn will win his 50th cap for Scotland, becoming the youngest player to do so at 25 years and 11 days. He made his debut against England in 2018 and has scored nine tries for his country.
Kinghorn is a versatile player who can also play at fly-half or centre. He has a strong kicking game and is dangerous in open play. He will face a tough challenge against Ireland’s experienced back three of Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale.
Schoeman and Fagerson return to bolster scrum
Loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman and tighthead Zander Fagerson return to the front row alongside hooker George Turner. They will hope to improve Scotland’s scrum, which was under pressure against South Africa and conceded several penalties. Schoeman and Fagerson are both powerful scrummagers and ball-carriers, who can also contribute in defence and at the breakdown.
Turner, who scored four tries against Romania, will have to contend with Ireland’s captain and hooker Rory Best, who is playing his last international match before retirement. Turner will also have to be accurate with his lineout throws, as Ireland have a formidable lineout unit led by second rows James Ryan and Iain Henderson.
Ritchie leads Scotland as captain
Jamie Ritchie has recovered from the concussion he sustained against Tonga and will captain Scotland at blindside flanker. Ritchie is one of Scotland’s most consistent performers, who excels in defence, turnover work and leadership. He will be joined by Rory Darge at openside and Jack Dempsey at No 8.
Darge is a young flanker who has impressed in his debut World Cup campaign, while Dempsey is a powerful ball-carrier who can also play in the second row. They will face a formidable Irish back row of CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan, who are all strong runners and tacklers.
Gray adds experience to second row
Richie Gray is back after sitting out the Romania match and will partner Grant Gilchrist in the second row. Gray is Scotland’s most capped lock with 77 appearances and brings a wealth of experience and physicality to the pack. He is also a key lineout jumper and an effective mauler.
Gilchrist is another experienced lock who has 67 caps and is vice-captain of the team. He is a hard-working player who does a lot of the dirty work in the tight exchanges. He will also have to organise Scotland’s lineout defence against Ireland’s well-drilled set-piece.
Six-two split on the bench
Townsend has gone for a six-two split of forwards and backs on the bench, with Ewan Ashman, Rory Sutherland, WP Nel, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson and Luke Crosbie providing pack back-up and George Horne and Ollie Smith covering the backline. This indicates that Townsend expects a physical battle up front and wants to have fresh legs in the second half.
Horne is a lively scrum-half who can inject some pace into the game, while Smith is a versatile back who can play at centre or wing. They will have to be ready to step up if there are any injuries or tactical changes in the backline.
Scotland face do-or-die situation
Scotland need to win this match and also deny Ireland a bonus point if they are to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup. They currently sit third in Pool B with nine points, behind South Africa (15) and Ireland (14). A win without a bonus point would put them level with Ireland on points, but ahead on head-to-head record. A win with a bonus point would put them on top of the pool, unless Ireland also score four tries.
Ireland, on the other hand, only need a draw or a losing bonus point to secure their place in the last eight. They have won their last three matches against Scotland, including a 27-3 victory in the 2019 World Cup. They will be determined to send off their captain Best and coach Joe Schmidt with a win in their final group game.
Scotland have not reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup since 2015, when they lost to Australia in controversial circumstances. They have also not beaten Ireland in Paris since 1995, when they won 26-13. They will have to produce their best performance of the tournament to keep their hopes alive and make history.