Duncan Taylor and John Barclay return to Scotland fold

Gregor Townsend names duo in XV for Saturday’s warm-up against France in Nice

Duncan Taylor makes his Scotland return against France in Nice on Saturday. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty

Duncan Taylor makes his Scotland return against France in Nice on Saturday. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty

 

Duncan Taylor will make his first Scotland appearance for two years when he starts against France in Nice on Saturday.

The 29-year-old has not featured since defeat to Fiji on the 2017 summer tour of the Pacific.

He suffered a devastating knee injury on duty for club side Saracens and has been battling for fitness ever since, but the versatile centre, who can also fill slots across the back three, will make his long-awaited return as Gregor Townsend’s team kick-off the first of four World Cup warm-up clashes at the Allianz Riviera.

There is also a return for former skipper John Barclay as he wins his first cap since March last year.

The Edinburgh forward has not played for his country since rupturing his Achilles on his final outing for former employers Scarlets against Glasgow but, like Taylor, will now be given the chance to show he is fit enough to cope with the rigours of action amid the soaring heat and humidity when Japan 2019 gets under way next month.

Head coach Gregor Townsend is looking forward to seeing how his men are shaping up. The Dark Blues boss has already slashed his training group from 44 to 40 but now has just three matches from which he must make the major calls before announcing who will be in the 31-man squad jetting out for the Far East.

Townsend names his travelling party on September 3rd, but before that there are home and away Tests with Les Bleus as well as a trip to Tiblisi to face Georgia.

The Lelos will make the trip to Edinburgh three days later for the final send-off party and Townsend is confident his side will be in top shape by then.

He 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.

“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.”

Townsend’s selection also sees Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally return as captain, having led the side to the dramatic retention of the Calcutta Cup in the Six Nations finale earlier this year as he leads out a near all-Edinburgh pack.

McInally 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.

Vice-captain Barclay and Jamie Ritchie complete the capital club’s contribution in the back-row with Blue Bulls number eight Josh Strauss starting at the tail of the pack.

Glasgow stand-off Adam Hastings is handed his first start since the 2018 Autumn Test victory over Argentina, alongside club-mate and scrum-half Ali Price, while a new-look centre partnership of Taylor and Glasgow’s Huw Jones mans the midfield for the first time.

New Exeter full-back Stuart Hogg anchors the back three, with fellow Hawick man Darcy Graham and Sale Sharks’ Byron McGuigan on the wing to complete the starting side.

Scotland: S Hogg; D Graham, H Jones, D Taylor, B McGuigan; A Hastings, A Price; J Bhatti, S McInally, S Berghan, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, J Barclay, J Ritchie, J Strauss. Replacements: G Turner, G Reid, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, M Fagerson, G Horne, R Hutchinson, B Kinghorn.

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