Hogg and Laidlaw line up but no starting slot for Graham in World Cup opener

Darcy Graham in try-scoring form for Scotland in the most recent Summer Test against Georgia at BT Murrayfield (Photo by Robert Perry/Getty Images)
Darcy Graham in try-scoring form for Scotland in the most recent Summer Test against Georgia at BT Murrayfield (Photo by Robert Perry/Getty Images)

Darcy Graham will be on the bench, while fellow Borderers Greig Laidlaw and Stuart Hogg will line up at the start of Scotland’s World Cup 2019 campaign in Japan on Sunday.

Head coach Gregor Townsend this morning (Friday) named the side to play Ireland in the Pool A curtain-raiser against Ireland in Yokohama, which is live on ITV/STV and kicks off at 8.45am UK time.

The starting team – of which two-thirds have previous World Cup experience – features a total of 630 Test caps, with 10 personnel changes made to the one that defeated Georgia 36-9 in the final Summer Test in Edinburgh earlier this month.

Former Gala ace Townsend said: “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 in Japan.

“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.”

Exeter Chiefs full-back and former Hawick legend Stuart Hogg, and Saracens wing Sean Maitland, return to the back-three to partner fellow British & Irish Lion and Glasgow Warriors wing Tommy Seymour.

Another pair of Lions – ex-Jed-Forest scrum-half Greig Laidlaw and stand-off Finn Russell – return to start at half-back, with Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor the only backs to be reinstated, in midfield.

Glasgow Warriors forwards Ryan Wilson and Jonny Gray are the only forwards to remain in the pack, which features the remaining six changes, including a new front-row trio of Allan Dell (London Irish), captain Stuart McInally and Willem Nel (both Edinburgh).

Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist returns to partner the reinstated Gray in the boiler house, while the capital club’s Hamish Watson and John Barclay join Wilson in the loose forwards.

Another former Hawick favourite, Darcy Graham, will be on the replacements’ bench, along with Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Scott Cummings, Blade Thomson, Ali Price and Chris Harris.

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.”