Scotland make wholesale changes for Romania Rugby World Cup clash

Scotland's head coach Gregor Townsend leads warm up prior to the France 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Scotland and Tonga at Stade de Nice in Nice, southern France

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said on Thursday he was looking for ‘freshness’ as he made 13 changes to his side to face Romania in their crucial Rugby World Cup clash this weekend. Picture: Christophe Simon/AFP

Published Sep 28, 2023


Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said on Thursday he was looking for "freshness" as he made 13 changes to his side to face Romania in the Rugby World Cup this weekend.

Only winger Kyle Steyn and centre Chris Harris retain their places from last week's bonus-point 45-17 win over Tonga to face lowly Romania in Lille on Saturday.

"There's players that deserve an opportunity to play at this World Cup," Townsend said.

"With a six-day turnaround we wanted the freshest possible team to build on that victory over Tonga," he added.

Gilchrist in for Ritchie

Lock Grant Gilchrist replaces Jamie Ritchie as skipper with Townsend choosing to rest front-line players such as fly-half Finn Russell before Saturday week's match with table-topping Ireland.

Gilchrist was vice-captain in their tournament-opening loss to South Africa and has led his club Edinburgh as well as his country in the past.

"He brings a lot of our emotion," Townsend said.

"He's going to make sure we're primed and ready for this," the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions fly-half added.

Flanker Ritchie was concussed in the victory over the Pacific Islanders in Marseille.

Matthews' ‘pace'

Tight-head prop Javan Sebastian makes his World Cup debut as does Russell's replacement Ben Healy with hooker Johnny Matthews set for his first Scotland appearance off the bench.

Matthews replaced Stuart McInally, who has suffered a neck injury, in Townsend's squad earlier this week.

"It's been a bit of a whirlwind for him. The temperature change is the biggest shock," Townsend joked from Scotland's training base in Nice, where the temperature was 26 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday.

"It's a great game for him to come off the bench and show his strengths which are around the set-piece, in particular the speed and pace he brings on the ball.

"I'm sure he'll get opportunities to carry on the weekend.”

Townsend's side need to beat Romania, 14 places below them in the world rankings, ideally with a bonus point to keep their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals alive.

"We can't take them lightly," Townsend said.

"A lot of what we'll do will be about us, the standards we set in training, where we believe we are as a rugby team, they have to come out over 80 minutes this weekend," he added.

If the Springboks beat Tonga on Sunday, Scotland will then need to overcome world ranked number one Ireland in their final Pool B match in Paris.

Scotland team (15-1):

Ollie Smith; Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Cameron Redpath, Kyle Steyn; Ben Healy, Ali Price; Matt Fagerson, Hamish Watson, Luke Crosbie; Grant Gilchrist (capt), Sam Skinner; Javan Sebastian, Ewan Ashman, Jamie Bhatti

Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Rory Sutherland, WP Nel, Scott Cummings, Rory Darge, George Horne, Blair Kinghorn, Huw Jones

Head coach: Gregor Townsend (SCO)