September 20, 2019 / 9:35 AM / a month ago

Townsend urges Scotland to seize opportunities against Ireland

TOKYO (Reuters) - Scotland coach Gregor Townsend wants his side to seize their opportunities in the Rugby World Cup Pool A opener against Ireland in Yokohama on Sunday and says his players are in the best shape of their careers.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - Scotland Captain's Run - International Stadium Yokahama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama City, Japan - September 20, 2019. Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend during the Captain's Run. REUTERS/ Rebecca Naden

Townsend has recalled 10 players to his starting side from the team that defeated Georgia 36-9 last time out, including the key half-back pairing of Greig Laidlaw and flyhalf Finn Russell.

Scotland’s ambitious playing style means they will likely have chances to score points, but this year they have not executed as well as in previous seasons and that remains a worry for Townsend.

“We have to take our opportunities and limit the chances that Ireland get, whether it is a ruck clear, tackle or execution of a pass,” he told reporters in Tokyo on Friday.

“As individuals I believe we will create opportunities and on Sunday it is about taking them.

“This will be the first time this team have all been fit and available and to get a squad that has this experience for such a big game is a real bonus.”

The back three will be made up of full-back Stuart Hogg and wings Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour, with Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor the preferred partnership in midfield.

Props Allan Dell and Willem Nel scrum down at prop, either side of captain Stuart McInally.

Grant Gilchrist and Jonny Gray are in the second row, John Barclay and Hamish Watson on the flanks and Ryan Wilson taking up his position at number eight.

Apart from centre Johnson, every member of the starting side has 23 caps or more, with eight players above 40 international appearances.

“We believe we are in the best physical condition we have ever been in,” Townsend said. “The players have worked as individuals and as a team, and we pride ourselves on finishing games strongly, which we tend to do.

“Ireland always start strong, so to be in the game or ahead at halftime will put more pressure on them.”

Townsend says he has not selected his side with the weather in mind, and remains unsure of the conditions in Yokohama on Sunday.

“Two days ago it was looking like it would be almost played in the middle of the typhoon, but today it says the afternoon is dry and the evening wet.

“Usually with the weather here you look on the day of the game to make sure you get it right.”

Team:

15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Tommy Seymour, 13-Duncan Taylor, 12-Sam Johnson, 11-Sean Maitland, 10-Finn Russell, 9-Greig Laidlaw, 8-Ryan Wilson, 7-Hamish Watson, 6-John Barclay, 5-Jonny Gray, 4-Grant Gilchrist, 3-Willem Nel, 2-Stuart McInally (captain), 1-Allan Dell

Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Scott Cummings, 20. Blade Thomson, 21. Ali Price, 22. Chris Harris, 23. Darcy Graham.

Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Andrew Heavens/Jon Boyle/Toby Davis

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