KOBE – Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has changed his entire back row for Monday’s Rugby World Cup match against Samoa, as his injury-hit team seeks to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Ireland.
Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie and Blade Thomson come in for John Barclay, Ryan Wilson and flanker Hamish Watson, who has flown home after a tournament-ending injury.
The Scots were poor by their own admission in their opening match against their Celtic rivals and will need to hit back against Samoa in a potentially tight Pool A that also features Japan on home soil.
“We were well below this level in our opening game against Ireland. We’ll need to be much better on Monday night against such a dangerous opponent,” Townsend said Saturday.
“The reality is we now have to win our next three games to make it out of our pool, so the knockout stages for us begin this Monday night. I firmly believe this group are ready to take on that challenge.”
The coach made five changes in total, with Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham and Gloucester center Chris Harris also making the starting XV in place of Tommy Seymour and Duncan Taylor.
Samoa beat Russia 34-9 in their opening match and will pose a tough physical challenge for the Scots. Nevertheless, Scotland have won nine out of 11 of their last meetings and should have too much firepower for the Pacific islanders.
Samoa, narrowly beaten 44-38 by Scotland when they last met at Murrayfield in 2017, will be without center Rey Lee-Lo and hooker Motu Matu’u on Monday after the pair were cited for foul play against Russia.
Stuart Hogg; Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Blade Thomson, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury; Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist; Willem Nel, Stuart McInally (capt), Allan Dell
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Adam Hastings, Duncan Taylor