All three Scottish Borders’ international rugby players have made it into the starting line-up against Samoa in this Saturday’s decisive Rugby World Cup Pool B match at St James’ Park, Newcastle (kick-off 2.30pm).
Captain Greig Laidlaw (Jedburgh), Stuart Hogg (Hawick) and Ross Ford (Kelso) have all been named in head coach Vern Cotter’s 1st XV.
There have been seven changes to the starting line-up that lost out to South Africa last weekend – three of which are returning from injury: back-row John Hardie (return-to-play protocol), wing Sean Maitland (hand) and stand-off Finn Russell (ankle).
Outside-centre Mark Bennett also returns to partner Matt Scott in midfield, while full-back Hogg, wing Tommy Seymour and captain Laidlaw start once again.
The three remaining changes to the starting pack are all promoted from the bench: Alasdair Dickinson and Ford join Willem Nel in the front-row, while Ryan Wilson starts in the back-row alongside Hardie and number 8 David Denton.
Richie Gray will win his 50th cap for his country this Saturday having been reinstated in the second-row alongside brother Jonny, while Sean Lamont could become the third Scotland internationalist to make 100 appearances – joining centurions Chris Paterson (109; 1999 to 2011) and Donna Kennedy (115; 1993 to 2010) – should he take to the field from the bench against the team he faced on his 2004 debut.
A win would guarantee the Scots a place in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the seventh time since the competition’s inauguration in 1987.
Standing in their way are the formidable Pacific Islanders who, despite being out of contention for the last eight, will look to end their campaign on a positive note.
If successful this Saturday Scotland will face the winner of Pool A (Australia or Wales) at Twickenham Stadium the following weekend.
Scotland team to play Samoa: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Willem Nel, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson, John Hardie, David Denton. Subs: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Tim Swinson, Josh Strauss, Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne, Sean Lamont.