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Afp

Townsend makes wholesale changes for France re-match

By AFP
media Finn Russell and captain Greig Laidlaw will form Scotland's half-back partnership for the 32nd time when they play France in their return Rugby World Cup warm-up match AFP

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend retained just one player, full-back Stuart Hogg, in the starting XV for Saturday's Test with France as the side bid to rebound from their 32-3 pasting by the French last weekend.

He brings back France-based duo Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw, who will team up at half-back for the 32dn time, three shy of the national record of the latter's uncle Roy Laidlaw and stand-off John Rutherford.

Scrum-half Laidlaw -- who plays for Top 14 outfit Clermont -- will skipper the side with Stuart McInally, who captained them last Saturday, dropping out of the 23 entirely.

Townsend has also called up experienced wings Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour to the starting XV.

There is just the one new cap, former New Zealand Under 20 international Blade Thomson, who will be at No 8 alongside Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson.

Former captain John Barclay -- who had his first start against the French last weekend after a long absence through injury -- is on the bench.

Townsend said the poor performance against the French did not reflect the hard work his players had put in at training camp over the last two months.

However, the former dashing Scottish back is looking for a markedly better performance in front of what could well be a sold out Murrayfield.

"France are a very dangerous side if you give them space and quick ball to play, which is what we allowed to happen on too many occasions last week," said 46-year-old Townsend.

"Our focus all week has been to remedy this and also create much more from our attacking game.

"It was a stark reminder of how tough things can be at international level if our standards slip.

"We expect our players to show a much truer picture of themselves this Saturday.

"France have selected another strong side so it will be a great challenge for us to deliver a much-improved performance."

Townsend names his World Cup squad on September 3, which comes after a trip to play Georgia -- who will also play the Scots in Edinburgh on September 6.

The Scots -- who were judged unlucky to lose to Australia in the 2015 quarter-finals -- begin their Pool A campaign against their toughest rivals Ireland on September 22.

They go on to play Samoa on September 30, Russia on October 9 and round their pool play off with hosts Japan on October 13.

Team (15-1)

Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Chris Harris, Pete Horne, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Blade Thomson, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson; Sam Skinner, Scott Cummings; Willem Nel, George Turner, Gordon Reid

Replacements: Grant Stewart, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Blair Kinghorn

Coach: Gregor Townsend (SCO)

 
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