Scotland welcome back stand-off Finn Russell for their final Pool B match against Samoa in Newcastle this weekend as they look to reach the quarter finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 2007.
Russell missed the 34-16 defeat to South Africa last weekend after suffering an ankle injury in the Scots’ 39-16 victory over the USA. But the 23 year-old had made significant progress throughout the week, alongside a myriad of others to form arguably Vern Cotter’s first string squad. He partners half-back Greig Laidlaw who captains the side once more.
Among the other returnees are winger Sean Maitland who replaces Tim Visser while Mark Bennett comes in for Richie Vernon in the centre.
Back-row John Hardie has completed his ‘return to play protocol’ after sustaining a head knock in the opening encounter with Japan and joins David Denton and Ryan Wilson. Jonny Gray will team up with brother Richie – who will earn his 50th test cap – in the second row while Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel retain their starting front-row line-up.
Samoa will be without key powerhouse winger Alesana Tuilagi through suspension, meaning scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i captains the squad. Paul Perez switches from centre to wing to fill Tuilagi’s place as Rey Lee-Lo comes in.
Speaking at the squad announcement, Cotter said: “Every Test match is a ‘must-win’ when you represent your country.
“We’ve put in a huge amount of work to get us to this point, and our performances and commitment have put us in a position to qualify for the last eight.
We’ll need to be up to the challenge, enjoy the opportunity, and maintain the awareness needed to play to our strengths and impose our game.”
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw is clear in his mind of the challenge the Samoans present as they look to end their disappointing World Cup campaign on a high.
He said: “We need to be careful not to fall into any traps. We’ve worked incredibly hard.
“We’ve got to give credibility and respect to Samoa. If we get our part right, we should have a good game. If we get our part right, we can cause Samoa problems”
“Samoa are a good and a dangerous team. If we defend properly there may be opportunities for us.
Teams – Rugby World Cup, pool B: Samoa v Scotland (St James’ Park) – kick-off 14:30
Samoa: Tim Nanai-Williams, Paul Perez, George Pisi, Rey Lee-Lo, Fa’atoina Autagavaia, Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali’i (CAPTAIN); Sakaria Taulafo, Ma’atulimanu Leiataua, Census Johnston, Teofilo Paulo, Kane Thompson, Maurie Fa’asavalu, Jack Lam, Alafoti Faosiliva.
Replacements: Motu Matu’u, Viliamu Afatia, Anthony Perenise, Faifili Levave, Vavae Tuilagi, Vavao Afemai, Patrick Faapale, Ken Pisi.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (CAPTAIN); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Willem Nel, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson, John Hardie, David Denton.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Tim Swinson, Josh Strauss, Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne, Sean Lamont