First-time pairing of Stuart Hogg and Darcy Graham for Scotland
The thrilling prospect of Hawick duo Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg playing together for Scotland for the first time looks set to be realised this weekend.
The two former Greens are in the starting line-up for Scotland’s first Summer Test – and World Cup warm-up fixture – on Saturday in Nice against France.
The match, at the Allianz Riviera, kicks off at 9pm local time, 8pm BST, and is live on Premier Sports.
And there’s further pride for the Borders with ex-Melrose prop Jamie Bhatti’s inclusion in the front row.
The Scots host France in a return home leg on August 24 at BT Murrayfield and also play Georgia at home and away before the final squad is selected for World Cup 2019 in Japan.
Head coach, former Gala and Scotland ace Gregor Townsend, said: “A huge amount of work has gone in throughout the past two months in order to deliver our best level of performance in the Rugby World Cup.
“These four Tests are a vital part of that process in terms of testing our systems and combinations but also in seeing which players put their best foot forward when it comes to selection for the final 31-man group going to Japan next month.”
Hogg and Graham had contrasting Six Nations experiences, which deprived them of an earlier opportunity to team up for Scotland. Hogg (27) missed the bulk of the campaign after being injured against Ireland, while Graham (22) scored three tries in two games.
In June, the two were honoured with a special lunch by their former club, Hawick, in which their Scotland credentials were celebrated – and the attractive thought was floated of them one day playing together for their country.
This weekend, Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally returns as captain, having led the side to the dramatic retention of the Calcutta Cup in the Guinness Six Nations finale earlier this year and takes to the field in a near all-Edinburgh pack.
He partners tighthead prop Simon Berghan and the club’s new signing Jamie Bhatti in the front row, with Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis returning to start in the second-row as they did at Twickenham.
John Barclay (vice-captain) and Jamie Ritchie complete the capital club’s contribution in the back-row with Blue Bulls number 8 Josh Strauss starting at the tail of the pack.
Glasgow Warriors stand-off Adam Hastings is handed his first start since the 2018 Autumn Test victory over Argentina, alongside clubmate and scrum-half Ali Price, while a new-look centre partnership of Duncan Taylor (Saracens) and Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) mans the midfield for the first time.
Full-back and vice-captain Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) anchors the back three with fellow Hawick man Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) and Sale Sharks Byron McGuigan on the wing to complete the starting side.
There are notable inclusions in the match day squad for Glasgow Warriors lock Scott Cummings and Northampton Saints midfielder Rory Hutchinson, who will make their Test debut if called upon from the bench in Nice this Saturday.
Townsend added: “As a coaching group, we’re pleased to be able to take a strong squad across to France for this opening Test. We’ve enjoyed seeing the players working hard and becoming closer as a team in our camp.We’ve been impressed by the quality of play they’ve delivered in training but, fundamentally, it’s been about preparing to play.
“We’re now very much looking forward to seeing our men perform in these Test matches.”
Tickets are still available for Scotland v France (Saturday, August 24, kick-off 1.10pm), while there is availability on all sections for Scotland v Georgia (Friday, September 6, kick-off 7.30pm) Meanwhile, the Scotland team to play France at the Allianz Riviera in Saturday’s Summer Test is:
15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 1 Jamie Bhatti, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 3 Simon Berghan, 4 Ben Toolis, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 6 John Barclay, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 8 Josh Strauss. Subs:16 George Turner, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hhutchinson, 23 Blair Kinghorn.