Townsend names experienced Scotland XV for Ireland clash
Scotland begin their Rugby World Cup campaign in Yokohama on Sunday.
Gregor Townsend has opted to name an experienced line-up ahead of Scotland’s World Cup opener against Ireland.
Skipper Stuart McInally will lead out a team boasting 630 caps for the Pool A clash at Yokohama’s International Stadium.
Exeter full-back Stuart Hogg and Saracens wing Sean Maitland return to the back three after missing this month’s final warm-up Test against Georgia to partner Glasgow’s Tommy Seymour.
Former skipper Greig Laidlaw joins playmaker Finn Russell at half-back, with centres Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor the only backs to be reinstated from the 36-9 win over the Lelos.
Glasgow forwards Ryan Wilson and Jonny Gray are the only forwards to remain in the pack, which features six more changes from the Georgia win.
Allan Dell, captain McInally and Willem Nel form the front row.
Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist returns to partner the reinstated Gray in the second row, 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.
“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.”