RWC Warm-Ups & Bledisloe 2.

Preview

I will not be doing full previews on all the matches scheduled for this weekend. With the World Cup just 1 month and four days away, there are more pressing matters than a bunch of warm-ups that feature some experimental teams, including a game that features a veritable “B” team, and the like.

The only Test of any real importance is the second round of the Bledisloe Cup in Auckland where the New Zealanders will be looking for a bounce-back from their disastrous game in Perth. This will be interesting for all observers as it will demonstrate whether the All Blacks were simply undercooked last week, or whether they are really on some slippery slope to rugby oblivion in 2019.

The rest of the fixtures are warm-ups for the RWC and of no real importance to anyone other than the coaches and the team spirit in each squad.

Enjoy your weekend.

Date: Saturday, August 17

International

Bledisloe Cup, Round 2

New Zealand vs Australia

Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Date Saturday 17 August
Kick-off 19h35 local;  07h35 GMT; 09h35 SA Time
Referee Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
AR1 Matthew Carley (England),
AR2 Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO Marius Jonker (South Africa)

New Zealand is hurting.

I am not talking about a couple of people that live on those islands collectively called New Zealand, I am talking about the vast majority of people who live on those islands. There will be a couple of New Zealanders that are oblivious to the fortunes of their All Black rugby team, but they are a very tiny minority in a country where rugby is something of a religion.

Whilst New Zealanders do not like their All Blacks losing to anybody, losing to Australia is akin to a national disaster.

And the Aussies do so love to celebrate and rub their Trans-Tasman cousins noses in it!

The Australian media and their social-media keyboard warriors jumped at the chance to celebrate a win over the All Blacks, making all manner of assertions about the demise of the mighty All Black, suggesting that the New Zealanders have lost their “aura” and are a mediocre team at best. They have had a field day celebrating their superiority over the one-mighty All Blacks.

With the announcement of the teams for this second Bledisloe Cup clash, the media stayed on their high horse, stating that Steve Hansen’s men are in panic mode.

The scribes suggested that the changes made by Hansen for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup decider stem from “desperation”and “panic”as they look to avenge last weekend’s record defeat against the Wallabies.

In a story headlined “All Blacks panicking as big names dropped, SBW recalled for Bledisloe decider”, Fox Sports reporter Christy Doran responded to the nine personnel and positional changes by saying “in a decision that points to panic, wingers Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane and prop Owen Franks have been dropped, while there are two more changes to the starting XV after the injury to centre Jack Goodhue and ban to Scott Barrett.”

TheDaily Telegraph‘s Jamie Pandaram labelled the All Blacks “desperate”and said “rarely has there been such panic in New Zealand over the state of the All Blacks.” and “the eight changes to last week’s team suggest there has been serious misgivings about the direction of the All Blacks.”

“The moves come amidst much angst within Kiwi rugby ranks, as the public fears the loss the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.”

Earlier in the week the same Daily Telegraph used the currently popular “Faceapp” to publish photos of some current All Black stars as old men. Teasing that the All Blacks have a host of “senior citizens”in their team and that the team resembles a collection of pensioners.

(I wonder if they have thought about the likes of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale when think about senior citizens?)

All this as the Wallabies head to Eden Park looking for their first victory at that stadium in 33 years.

As I read the Aussie media reaction, and scrolled through the comments by the keyboard warriors on a variety of websites, I was reminded that the old saying of being “Humble in Victory and Gracious in Defeat” has never been an Aussie strong suite.

The past week has been a reinforcement of that belief.

Interesting too, that while the Aussies have been crowing about their victory, the New Zealanders have been quiet, and somehow gracious, in their response.

Steve Hansen has been low key in his comments, and his assistant coach Ian Foster was equally gracious, saying that “we lost the physical battle and we have to be better than that.” 

He would also not respond to comments by Rod Kafer that the All Blacks deliberately targeted Michael Hooper with dirty tactics, to which the New Zealand media responded by highlighting the number of neck rolls by Wallaby players on All Blacks, with Foster saying that New Zealand are in no position to claim the moral high ground after Barrett’s red card and subsequent three-week ban.

“There’s no point in us highlighting anything else. We’ve been found guilty of something. We’ll take our medicine on that,”he said. “So, forget about all the other things, who might have done what and all that sort of stuff.”

I had a bit of fun comparing the two nations’ different responses to last weekend’s game, the crowing in victory and the somewhat taken-aback graciousness in defeat were so diametrically different that they deserve comment.

Moving on, my reading of the New Zealand rugby media articles noted that one and all are calling on the All Blacks to “Bounce Back” from the defeat and to show their true worth this weekend.

Which led me to consider what the term “Bounce Back” means.

First, and of little interest to me, “Bounce Back” is a song by a British girl group Little Mix. 

I had the misfortune of having to sit through a “song” by Little Mix a year or three ago as the TV remote was in the charge of my daughter at the time and she refused to change channels as a singularly unmusical and untalented bunch of scantily clad women chanted something about “All the girls on the block knocking at my door.”

It was a uniquely horrible experience, burned into my memory forever.  I sought refuge in my headphones with some Pink Floyd and a stiff whiskey.

I have no doubt that the All Black Bounce Back called for by the media and the fans will have nothing at all to do with Little Mix, although they may want the experience suffered by the Wallabies to be similar to that which I experienced from being forced to listen to Little Mix.

The next meaning of the term “Bounce Back” refers to a unique blend of organic materials specially formulated for promoting faster, healthier, and sustained growth to all your garden plants. 

Now that type of “Bounce Back” I do know. 

I have used it in my garden, and that “unique blend of organic materials” includes a significant amount of some highly pungent stuff produced by chickens. My garden stank for a week until some heavy rain managed to dilute the stuff and allow it to drain into the subsoil. The garden flourished thanks to that Bounce Back.

If this is the kind of Bounce Back that the New Zealand media has in mind, then they may be on the right track. They will want the All Black garden to flourish, after miring the Wallabies is some seriously smelly stuff.

Of course, there is also the dictionary definition of Bounce Back.

Merriam-Webster tells us that bounce backmeans: to return quickly to a normal condition after a difficult situation or event.

I have no doubt that is what the New Zealand media are looking for.

Which brings me to a couple of quotations which are also relevant to the All Black/Wallaby game.

Billie Jean King said: “Champions keep playing until they get it right.”
That wonderful footballer Pele had this to say: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing.”
Henry Ford provides the final quote:“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
All of these are relevant in my thinking about the game that looms this weekend.

Over the years the All Blacks have been the most successful international sports team in the entire world.

Why?

Because of hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and their love for the sport of rugby and what they are doing.

Because theykeep playing until they get it right.
And because they have always listened and absorbed what Henry Ford said, and they takefailure as the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.
Based on their history, on their national rugby ethic, and their mindset, I would suggest that this weekend may well see that “bounce back” that so many are calling for.

Which then brings me to my final pre-game thought.

I would like to remind the Wallaby fans and their media of this quote from Aristotle: “One swallow does not a summer make.”

Shall we perhaps leave all the celebrations and predictions about the demise of the All Black until after this weekend?

Team Selections:

New Zealand:

Crusaders wings George Bridge and Sevu Reece have been handed a chance to impress after being named in the All Blacks starting XV for their Bledisloe Cup encounter against Australia.

Bridge and Reece come in for Rieko Ioane and Ben Smith respectively, who have been dropped from the 23, while Nepo Laulala starts ahead of Owen Franks at tighthead prop,

Elsewhere, Ofa Tuungafasi comes in for Atu Moli on the bench and Patrick Tuipulotu will start at lock alongside Sam Whitelock – due to Scott Barrett’s suspension – with Jackson Hemopo coming into the 19 jersey.

Sonny Bill Williams also returns to the line-up and takes his place alongside Anton Lienert-Brown at centre, replacing the injured Jack Goodhue, while Jordie Barrett comes onto the bench in the 23 jersey.

New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Ardie Savea, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Jordie Barrett

Australia:

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has stuck with the team that won in Oerth, making just one enforced change to his starting XV.

Adam Coleman comes into the second-row for his first Test start of 2019 after a hand injury ruled out Rory Arnold. Coleman made his return from injury in last week’s clash at Optus Stadium in Perth.

The second-row reshuffle means veteran lock Rob Simmons has been named amongst the reserves, alongside potential debutant Liam Wright.

Wright will have plenty of experience alongside him on the bench, especially after the inclusion of utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper, who has been named for his first Test of the year.

An appearance at Eden Park would be Ashley-Cooper’s 118th Test, making him the 16th most capped player of all-time alongside New Zealand prop Tony Woodcock and France lock Fabien Pelous.

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 Adam Ashley-Cooper

Thoughts:

I am not going to do any analysis of the two teams and their game plans for this game.

One team will be buoyed by their form and the win they banked last week, while the other is hurting, badly.

A hurting All Black is always a dangerous thing.

We can expect a switch up in attitude, desire, and physicality from the hosts. Can the Wallabies up their game some more, or was last week the peak of their capbilities?

How the Wallabies cope with the angry All Blacks will tell us much about the state of Aussie rugby.

I will be watching with plenty of interest.

Prediction:

Somebody said that the Wallabies will be entering a “cauldron of hate” when they take to the field at Eden Park. Last week they were at home, in Perth, in front of a wholly supportive home crowd. That helped them as they stepped up their game against a somewhat lackadaisical All Blacks.

This week it will be wholly different. The crowd will be hostile, the All Blacks are angry…….. 

And I remain wholly unconvinced by the current crop of Wallabies. I need to see whole flocks of swallows.

And that is why I am calling it for the All Blacks, by 14 points.

Friendly/Warm-up

South Africa vs Argentina 

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Date Saturday 17 August
Kick-off 17h05 local (SA Time); 15h05 GMT
Referee Luke Pearce(England)

AR1 Andrew Brace (Ireland)
AR2 Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO Simon McDowell (Ireland)

This game represents the “Last Chance Saloon” for a whole bunch of fringe players looking for inclusion in the Springbok team that heads over to Japan in a couple of weeks. Rassie Erasmus has said that he has his Springbok selection about 80% complete, which tells us that there are still a couple of spots open in the list of 31 that will be announced for the RWC.

Every single one of those players will get a chance to show their mettle, and their hunger, this weekend as the Springbok coach returns to his “dual-squad” approach by fielding a team reflecting wholesale changes to the one that took on and demolished the Argentineans a week ago.

Just five of the match-day 23 that were named for Salta a week ago are included in this week’s team, all of them were amongst last week’s replacements, who will get a starting run this week.

This game is thus all about squad depth for the South Africans.

The Argentineans have a wholly different focus this week.

They too have made wholesale changes to their squad, but these are desperation changes rather than tactical changes. 

They need to find some form and focus after last week. 

The two previous games in the Rugby Championships saw them run the second-string All Blacks close, and then do everything except win against Australia. In both those games their scrum was the weak link that let them down and forced their formidable back division to play off the back foot.

Last week they were bullied in every phase of play by a wholly focussed and committed Springbok outfit.

If they lose again, to what amounts to a Springbok “B” team, their World Cup dreams may well be shattered.

Team Selections

South Africa:

Rassie Erasmus has named an entirely different starting team to take on the Pumas this weekend.

He has taken this game as an opportunity for a final trial before announcing his World Cup squad, and has given his nominated captain, Siya Kolisi an opportunity to work on his match fitness without the burden of captaincy. Schalk Brits will set a unique new record in South African rugby history, becoming the oldest player to captain the country for the first time.

There are five players in this squad who have not featured in the three Rugby Championships fixtures, including the initial “B” team run against the Wallabies at Ellis Park. They are: the returning Siya Kolisi, Thomas du Toit, Wilco Louw, Marco van Staden and potential debutant Scarra Ntubeni.

Of the rest, eighteen featured in the Rugby Championship-winning campaign.

Siya Kolisi has been named in the starting XV for a cameo role as he continues his carefully managed rehabilitation from a knee injury.

Schalk Brits, who becomes the second oldest Springbok captain at 38 years and three months, makes his first start in the green and gold since 2008.

The backline that helped overwhelm Australia at Ellis Park a month ago has been reunited with the exception of scrum-half, where Cobus Reinach gets an opportunity to start.

The pack features a new front row, a Bulls locking combination and a first start of the season for Marcell Coetzee, who is alongside Kolisi and Rynhardt Elstadt.

Vice-captain Elton Jantjies will take over the leadership role in the event of Brits being replaced – opening the way for a debut by Ntubeni. 

On the bench, Erasmus gone for a 6-2 split with Faf de Klerk the reserve scrum-half and Frans Steyn covering all of fly-half, centre and full-back.

Herschel Jantjies was slated to provide scrum-half cover but he was withdrawn on Tuesday following a blow to his head in training. It is not expected to affect his potential inclusion in the Rugby World Cup squad.

South Africa: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Schalk Brits (c), 1 Thomas du Toit
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Faf de Klerk, 23 Frans Steyn

Argentina:

Argentina head coach Mario Ledesma has unveiled a new-look team to face the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

In the backline, there are changes to the back three with Joaquín Tuculet taking over the No.15 jersey from Emiliano Boffelli, while Sebastián Cancelliere comes in on the wing for Santiago Cordero.

In the midfield, Jerónimo de la Fuente moves from inside centre to outside centre for this week’s match with Lucas Mensa taking over the No.12 jersey.

There is also a new halfback pairing in the form of Joaquín Díaz Bonilla (flyhalf) and Felipe Ezcurra (scrumhalf).

In the pack, Javier Ortega Desio moves to No.8 with Marcos Kremer moving from the second row to the back row at No.7.

Tomás Lavanini and Guido Petti are the two locks this week and there is also a new front row in the form of Santiago Medrano, Julian Montoya and Mayco Vivas.

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Sebastián Cancelliere, 13 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 12 Lucas Mensa, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Santiago Carreras.

Thoughts:

I am not going to spend too much time thinking about and analysing the two teams for this one.

On the one hand we have an “experimental” team where a bunch of players will be looking to lay down a marker for World Cup selection, and on the other hand we have  team desperate to find something, anything, that they can take into the World Cup campaign that will boost their confidence and team spirit.

On the South African side the players who are on the fringe of selection are probably the likes of Cobus Reinach, Lood de Jager, Marcell Coetzee, Vincent Koch, Thomas du Toit, Warrick Gelant, Andre Esterhuizen and possibly Dillyn Leyds.

Reinach will be looking to cement his potential as South Africa’s third choice scrumhalf behind Faf de Klerk and Herschell Jantjies. His job has been made all the more difficult by the cameo at 9 by Cheslin Kolbe a week ago, which may suggest that Kolbe will be the fallback option if the first two scrumhalves are injured.

Marcell Coetzeecan coverthe entire back-row as a utility loose forward, but needs time on the field to get his fitness level up to scratch. With Erasmus playing him at 8, it will be interesting to see whether he is an alternative to Duane Vermeulen.

Lood de Jager would be an automatic choice for any Springbok squad, except for some nagging doubts about his fitness. Injuries have taken their toll in the last two years, and he has managed just 3 caps in that time. He is competing for a place with RG Snyman as the back-up lock forward at this time. Etzebeth and Mostert look to be the starting locks, with either Snyman or De Jager as the cover, and then there is P-S du Toit as a wholly acceptable fallback option if any of the first three locks is injured.  De Jager will know that he has to step up a couple of gears to show that he should be the chosen one and that Snyman might be held back as the at-home reserve.

The four props used in the Rugby Championships were Kitshoff and Mtawarira on the openside, and Malherbe and Nyakane on the tighthead side. This suggests that Thomas du Toit and Vincent Koch will need to produce massive performances if they are to be named in the initial 31-man squad for the RWC. Vincent Koch will know that he has a huge challenge ahead of him, and he need only look over his shoulder to see Wilco Louw lurking on the bench!

Thomas Du Toit has yet to feature for the Boks in 2019, but there is talk of him being a second “swinger” selection who can play both open and blindside. (Along with Trevor Nyakane.) If Rassie Erasmus considers Nyakane as a specialist tighthead, and is inclined to take five props to the World Cup, Du Toit would add massive value due to his utility tag. Of course, if Erasmus goes with Nyakane as the “swinger” then Vincent Koch is likely to get the nod.

Andre Esterhuizen will need to show more than just crash-ball running if he wants to lay down a marker for selection as an alternative inside centre to Damian de Allende and Frans Steyn.

Dillyn Leyds and Warrick Gelant will both be looking to provide back-up to Willie le Roux in the fullback position, with Leyds perhaps having a slightly better hand of cards as he can play on either wing, or at flyhalf if needed.

So, other than national pride and the honour of wearing a Springbok jersey, there are a number of players who will have some extra motivation as they take to the field against the Argentineans.

As for the Argentineans? Well, they are playing a game they probably would rather not, given the current circumstances. They looked fatigued last week, and another fixture is the last thing they needed. They will be playing for their survival as RWC challengers.

Prediction:

I cannot see the Springbok “B” team losing this one. The Springboks, by 12.

Other Internationals

DateSaturday, August 17

I will not be making comments about the other three internationals scheduled for this weekend. Others are far more qualified than I to talk about:

Italy vs Russia


Venue: San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy
Kick-off: 18h45; 18h45 GMT; 19h45 Moscow time; 20h45 SA time
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales), Sean Gallagher (Ireland)

Teams:

Italy:

Veteran Sergio Parisse has been handed the captain’s armband for Italy’s second World Cup warm-up clash against Russia in San Benedetto del Tronto.

The Azzurri skipper did not feature in Saturday’s defeat to Ireland but returns to lead the side as one of 14 changes. He will win his 139th international cap, moving level with George Gregan for the third most caps. Only Brian O’Driscoll and Richie McCaw have won more.

Matteo Minozzi is the only player to keep his place, having been promoted to the starting line-up at the last minute in Dublin following Marco Zanon’s withdrawal.

In the back row, Parisse will be joined by Jake Polledri and Braam Steyn, while Dave Sisi and Federico Ruzza line up in the second row.

Luca Bigi gets the nod at hooker, with Tiziano Pasquali and Andrea Lovotti propping.

Meanwhile, in the backs, Minozzi starts on the wing, allowing Jayden Hayward to come in at full-back, with Mattia Bellini completing the back three.

Luca Morisi and Michele Campagnaro form an experienced midfield and Benetton pair Tito Tebaldi and Tommaso Allan will be the halfbacks.

Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Matteo Minozzi, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Braam Steyn, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 David Sisi, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: TBC

Russia:

To be announced

France vs Scotland

Venue: Allianz Riviera, Nice
Kick-off: 21:00 local; 20:00 BST; 19:00 GMT; 21:00 SA time
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

Teams:

France:

Fijian-born wing Alivereti Raka will make his France debut after being named in the XV to take on Scotland in Nice on Saturday.

The speedster qualifies through residency having joined Clermont in 2015 and has become one of the premier backs in Europe over the past few years.

Raka is joined in the back three by wing Damian Penaud and full-back Maxime Medard, while Wesley Fofana and Gael Fickou line up at centre.

In the playmaking positions, following an outstanding season domestically and in Europe, Antoine Dupont is at scrum-half with Camille Lopez outside him at fly-half.

Up front, Jefferson Poirot takes the captaincy due to the absence of Guilhem Guirado and he is joined by Camille Chat and Rabah Slimani in the front-row.

Finally, the back five has a fresh look to it, despite the inclusion of the experienced Sebastien Vahaamahina, with Paul Gabrillagues, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt and debutant Francois Cros completing the XV.

There could also be first caps for Peato Mauvaka and Emerick Setiano, who take their place on the bench, while fellow replacements Dany Priso, Felix Lambey, Louis Picamoles, Baptiste Serin, Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos will add plenty of firepower should they get on the field.

France: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Jefferson Poirot (c)
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Louis Picamoles, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Romain Ntamack, 23 Thomas Ramos

Scotland:

Centre Duncan Taylor will play his first game for Scotland in over two years after being handed a start by Gregor Townsend for their opening World Cup warm-up against France in Nice.

Taylor hasn’t featured for the national team since the 2017 June tour due to injury but will partner Huw Jones in a new-look midfield combination.

The match will be the first of four Test matches for the Scots in the coming weeks, all of which are designed to refine the selection decisions of head coach Townsend, who will name his final squad for Rugby World Cup 2019 next month.

Hooker Stuart McInally returns as captain having led the side to the dramatic retention of the Calcutta Cup in the Six Nations finale earlier this year and takes to the field in a near all-Edinburgh pack.

He partners tighthead prop Simon Berghan and 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 back-row with Blue Bulls number eight Josh Strauss starting at the back of the pack.

Adam Hastings is handed his first start since the 2018 November Test victory over Argentina, playing flyhalf alongside scrum-half Ali Price.

Full-back and vice-captain Stuart Hogg anchors the back three with Darcy Graham and Byron McGuigan on the wing to complete the starting side.

There are notable inclusions in the match-day squad for lock Scott Cummings and midfielder Rory Hutchinson, who will make their Test debuts if called upon from the bench in Nice this Saturday.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Blair Kinghorn

Wales vs England 

Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales
Kick-off: 14h15 BST; 13h15 GMT; 15h15 SA time
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

Teams:

Wales:

Warren Gatland has made three alterations to his starting XV to face England in their Rugby World Cup warm-up match in Cardiff on Saturday. 

Jake Ball comes into the second-row alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones with James Davies coming into the back-row alongside Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty.

James will also line-up alongside elder brother Jonathan Davies for the first time in a Wales jersey. (The last pair of brothers to play alongside each other for Wales was Jamie and Nicky Robinson in 2006).

Dan Biggar comes into the starting line-up at fly-half and will partner Gareth Davies at half-back. The rest of the backline remains unchanged with Hadleigh Parkes partnering Jonathan Davies in midfield and Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams comprising the back three.

Wales have also named an unchanged front-row with Nicky Smith, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis all starting.

Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones and Dillon Lewis provide the front-row cover with Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Jarrod Evans and Owen Watkin are named as the backline cover.

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Owen Watkin

England:

Wing Ruaridh McConnochie is set to win his first England cap after being named in the starting line-up to face Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

There are three changes to the starting XV that played last weekend. Maro Itoje is named in the second-row while Courtney Lawes will play at blindside flanker with Lewis Ludlam moving to openside. McConnochie will start his first England game after being withdrawn from the team last weekend due to injury.

Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler are included in the matchday 23 for the first time in this series of matches ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 George Ford (c), 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jack Singleton, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Manu Tuilagi