|Rugby World Cup Pool A: Scotland v Russia|
|Venue: Shizuoka Stadium, Fukuroi City Date: Wednesday, 9 October Kick-off: 08:15 BST|
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made 14 changes for Wednesday’s World Cup meeting with Russia.
Winger Darcy Graham is the only player retained from the starting XV that beat Samoa 34-0 last week.
Experienced flanker John Barclay returns to lead the side having been dropped after the disappointing opening loss to Ireland.
Key players are rested for a potential winner-takes-all meeting with Pool A leaders Japan on Sunday.
Scotland need a bonus-point win over Russia to go into the final group match four points behind the host nation.
Full-back Blair Kinghorn, centre Pete Horne, lock Ben Toolis and hooker George Turner will make their first appearances at the tournament, while the younger Horne brother, George, starts at scrum-half after coming off the bench against Samoa.
He links up with Glasgow Warriors team-mate Adam Hastings, with star fly-half Finn Russell among those held in reserve for the weekend.
Fraser Brown, a replacement hooker in the first two matches, is chosen in the back row, along with Barclay and Ryan Wilson, who also returns to the starting line-up after the Ireland defeat – as do winger Tommy Seymour and centre Duncan Taylor.
“First and foremost we’ve picked a team we believe is capable of defeating an increasingly impressive and combative Russia side, who are looking to finish their Pool campaign on a high,” said Townsend.
“Any successful World Cup campaign is built on a squad effort and those players who didn’t get the opportunity to start against Samoa really helped provide that team with a quality week of preparation.
“Now it’s their chance to get stuck into our next important game.”
Russia, ranked 20th in the world, are without a point in Japan following three defeats.
‘This team should be good enough to deliver a five-pointer’ – analysis
Tom English, BBC Scotland in Japan
Fraser Brown’s versatility as a hooker who can play as openside flanker is a major asset for Scotland, not just because Brown is adept with a number seven on his back – he played in the position in the win over Argentina in Resistencia last summer – but also, and most importantly, because his presence against Russia means a rest for others.
None of Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury and Blade Thomson, the first-choice three for the all-important Japan game, need to start against Russia, thanks to Brown’s ability to fill in. The back-row is one of Japan’s greatest strengths and Scotland can’t hope to win this monumental Test match unless they win the battle of the back-rows. Japan will have had an eight-day break before the game. Townsend has now ensured that many of his frontliners, not just his back-row, will also be rested going into it.
Thomson gets the day off on Wednesday in Shizuoka. The rest will keep him fresh for the big one. Gregor Townsend will not want to risk Ritchie or Bradbury unless he really has to. They’re on the bench as emergency cover.
Fourteen changes is a lot but needs must. And Scotland must. There is a risk in leaving Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell out altogether, but the greater imperative demands it. The Russia game must deliver a five-pointer and this team should be good enough to do it, albeit after a struggle against the psyched up Bears, you fancy. This is a major opportunity for the fringe players to contribute and set up a spectacular denouement in Yokohama on Sunday.
Scotland: Kinghorn; Seymour, Taylor, P Horne, Graham; Hastings, G Horne; Reid, Turner, Fagerson; Cummings, Toolis; Barclay, Brown, Wilson.
Replacements: McInally, Berghan, Nel, Gilchrist, Bradbury, Ritchie, Pyrgos, Harris.