SCOTLAND coach Vern Cotter described Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour as “raring to go” after bringing them back into his starting line-up for tomorrow night’s final World Cup warm-up match against France in Paris.
Full-back Maitland has not played since injuring his shoulder in January, while wing Seymour tweaked his back before the first summer Test in Dublin and gets his first run-out since the Guinness Pro12 final.
Maitland replaces fellow Lion Stuart Hogg at full-back, with the latter facing ten days to two weeks out with an injured foot.
Lock Tim Swinson, who was one of the surprise inclusions in Cotter’s World Cup squad, is on the bench with the Gray brothers Richie and Jonny uniting in the second row.
On Maitland and Seymour, Cotter said: “They went through a pretty long rehab process. For Sean it was touch and go until pretty much three weeks ago when he began to show signs of getting close and being able to make it.
“We were unsure at times at just how much he would be involved but he came through and he starts at full-back. He could possibly finish the game.”
Wales have named a couple of players from outside the 31 for their match against Italy this weekend, but Cotter said he felt it was better to travel to Paris as the World Cup squad.
“We could have [done what Wales have done]. Greig Tonks was training with us earlier in the week just in case. But I think it’s good for that 31 to come together as one this week and know this the 31.”
Jim Hamilton was one of those left out of the squad and the lock then announced his international retirement. Cotter said that he had made it clear to the Saracens forward that he could yet be called up as an injury replacement, but the player’s mind was made up.
“Jim had let it be known that it was perhaps an idea. He hadn’t spoken to us directly about it. He made a decision after the team announcement. He’d obviously thought long and carefully about it. He came and announced it to the coaching group on Monday, and respect to the man, he made it public the next day.
“I think he had made up his mind, I mentioned to him [that he might be needed] but he’d made up his mind. I said to him that it wasn’t over, but he said he’d made his decision.”
Thierry Dusautoir will lead France tomorrow after recovering from a knee problem.
The 33-year-old flanker missed two matches against England last month after damaging a knee during a training session. He is now trying to regain full fitness ahead of the World Cup, which starts on 18 September.
“He is in great shape, his performance will matter and he prepared well for this match,” said France coach Philippe Saint-André.
Dusautoir replaces Bernard Le Roux as Saint-André keeps faith with the players who beat England 25-20 in their previous game, making just another change to his line-up. Second-row Yoann Maestri is hampered by a rib injury and made room for Alexandre Flanquart as the French staff decide to take a cautious approach with him.
Sebastien Tillous-Borde and Frederic Michalak will link up again in the half-backs and Saint-Andrée selected first-choice centre pairing Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud.
France is a nation Cotter knows well from his playing days and time coaching Clermont Auvergne and the Kiwi is certain Les Bleus are contenders to win the World Cup.
“Absolutely,” he said. “They’ve been finalists three times and I think they’re better prepared this year than for a number of years.”
The French have publicly said that they view tomorrow’s match as a chance to boost confidence with a high-scoring win. Asked if that gave the Scots extra motivation, Cotter said: “I thought about that but their attitude doesn’t change our approach to the game.
“We’re using it as an opportunity. It’s our last 80 minutes to prepare for Japan.Defensively we’ll get tested, we’ll have to react quickly, play against big powerful athletes. There’s a lot in the content we’ll be looking at so our focus is that. It’s a game we’re looking forward to playing. The guys will be pulling on the jersey again and there’s content and attitude within the game.”