Scotland Rugby World Cup: Gregor Townsend names team to play South Africa as Stuart McInally flies out as injury cover

Zander Fagerson and Darcy Graham have returned to the Scotland team for their opening match of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France – and hooker Stuart McInally has travelled to France as injury cover.

Fagerson, the tighthead prop, is in the team to play South Africa in Marseille on Sunday after serving a two-match ban following his red card in the warm-up game against France at Murrayfield. Graham is named on the right wing after recovering from a quad strain which caused him to miss the final preparation match against Georgia.

Gregor Townsend has named a starting XV that was widely expected but has sprung a surprise on the bench by going for a 5-3 split of forwards and backs. There was speculation the Scotland coach might match his opponents and have a 6-2 split to try to counter South Africa’s much trumpeted ‘Bomb Squad’, the nickname given to their replacements.

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Jamie Ritchie, the blindside flanker, captains the team for the Pool B clash at the Velodrome, home of Olympique Marseille, and is joined in the back row by openside Rory Darge and No 8 Jack Dempsey, the trio that has performed well in recent warm-ups. In front of them are experienced locks Grant Gilchrist and Richie Gray while the front row consists of Pierre Schoeman, George Turner and Zander Fagerson.

Blair Kinghorn is at full-back for Scotland, the wings are Graham and Duhan van der Merwe and the centres are the Glasgow Warriors pair Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu. Finn Russell, playing in his third World Cup, is at stand-off, with Ben White at scrum-half.

Townsend has made some interesting calls on the bench. There is no place for Kyle Steyn, the winger who performed impressively in the warm-ups. The three backs on the bench are Ollie Smith, Cam Redpath and scrum-half Ali Price, who gets the nod ahead of George Horne.

The forward replacements are hooker Dave Cherry, props Jamie Bhatti and WP Nel, lock Scott Cummings and back-rower Matt Fagerson.

McInally, the experienced hooker who was not included in Scotland’s World Cup squad, has travelled out to France as cover for Ewan Ashman, who is recovering from an injury picked up in training this week. Scottish Rugby said McInally had not actually joined the 33-player squad.

There are three South Africa-born players in the Scotland 23: Van der Merwe, Schoeman and Nel.

Scotland team to play South Africa: 15. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 46 caps; 14. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby) 35 caps, 13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) 39 caps, 12. Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) 19 caps, 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 31 caps; 10. Finn Russell (Bath Rugby) - Vice-captain - 72 caps, 9. Ben White (Toulon) 16 caps; 1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) 23 caps, 2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 37 caps, 3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 59 caps, 4. Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 75 caps, 5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) - Vice-captain - 65 caps, 6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) - Captain - 43 caps, 7. Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps, 8. Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) 12 caps. Replacements: 16. Dave Cherry (Edinburgh Rugby) 10 caps, 17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 32 caps, 18. WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) 57 caps, 19. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) 29 caps, 20. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 36 caps, 21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) 63 caps, 22. Cameron Redpath (Bath Rugby) 7 caps, 23. Ollie Smith (Glasgow Warriors) 6 caps.