Gregor Townsend keeps faith with his Scotland players

Gregor Townsend has made only two enforced changes to his Scotland side. Picture: SNS/SRU.
Gregor Townsend has made only two enforced changes to his Scotland side. Picture: SNS/SRU.
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As his Scotland side prepare to face a near full-strength All Black outfit, Gregor Townsend has kept faith with most of the players who blew hot and cold against Samoa last weekend, giving them a shot at history.

If they can put right the defensive failings from last Saturday’s 44-38 win, they may have a chance to be the first Scotland side to beat New Zealand in a Test match tomorrow evening.

Head coach Townsend has made just two enforced changes to a starting XV which scored six tries but conceded five in the win over the Pacific islanders in the opening autumn Test.

Glasgow tighthead Zander Fagerson replaces Edinburgh counterpart WP Nel, who has a broken arm, and Cornell du Preez comes in at No 8 to replace Ryan Wilson, who picked up a shoulder injury.

New Zealand have named their strongest possible side for the match, which kicks off at 5:15pm at BT Murrayfield. Apart from hooker Dane Coles, who has returned home after injuring knee ligaments, the XV is unchanged from last week’s 38-18 win over France in Paris.

Townsend said yesterday: “The plan going into Samoa was to try to keep the squad together as much as possible, which would give the squad that advantage of that extra week’s preparation and give the squad that second opportunity. The changes are really enforced.”

Wing Tommy Seymour has recovered from a toe problem to keep an all-Glasgow backline intact, while there are four new faces on the bench. The uncapped pair of Sale wing Byron McGuigan and Leicester flanker Luke Hamilton are set for debuts, while Edinburgh’s Simon Berghan covers tighthead and clubmate Grant Gilchrist is the standby lock.

Townsend added: “Part of the reason Byron McGuigan is on the bench is having a winger on the bench makes sense just in case Tommy doesn’t get through the game. Also Byron has been playing really well and trained well.”

Townsend said Du Preez, who suffered a serious leg break three years ago, was the obvious replacement for Wilson, adding bulk, ball-carrying and handling skills for what will be a highly demanding Test against the world champions.

“Cornell was in excellent form before he got a really serious injury. Having spoken to him and worked with him this season, it is the first time he has really felt no pain at training.

“He’s having a lot more involvement in games, he’s a very skilful and also a very aggressive player.”