Gregor Townsend named the team yesterday morning which he believes – or at least hopes – can elevate Scotland from scrappy underdogs capable of giving one of the big boys a burst lip every once-in-a-while, to serious players capable of winning matches that really matter on the world stage. We will find out if he has cracked the nut on Sunday morning when his take on Ireland – the world’s top ranked team – at Yokohama International Stadium in the opening match of their 2019 World Cup campaign.

While Sam Skinner (hamstring), Jamie Ritchie (face), Blair Kinghorn and Ben Toolis (both head knocks) were all unavailable, none of those players were guaranteed starters, although Skinner may have been in with a shout. It is perhaps the first time in Townsend’s two-and-a-bit year tenure as head coach that he has had so all of his frontline players available at the same time.

The selection of Ryan Wilson at No 8 is perhaps the biggest surprise, but hardly counts as a major shock. Townsend is an avowed admirer of the charismatic and confrontational Glasgow Warriors player, and in a game of this magnitude his 45 caps worth of experience will have been a key factor in putting him ahead of Blade Thomson, who has a grand total of two caps.

Wilson has been involved in a lot of Scotland’s best performances in recent years, including that famous Calcutta Cup victory in 2017 – the team’s best all-round performance under Townsend – when he lined up alongside Hamish Watson and John Barclay in the back-row, just as he will on Sunday.

“Ryan has a number of strengths away from the rugby side of things that he brings to the team,” said Townsend. “He played really well against Ireland in the spring; he went off at half-time and we didn’t play as well in the second half. Some part of that was that Ryan’s influence wasn’t there in the second half.

“He has captained the team and has played really well in a couple of games in our warm-up series, so we feel he has earned that spot. Given his experience he can really help prepare the team well.

“He is an emotional leader,” the coach continued. “He is the person who sets the energy off the field and in the changing room before a game.

“But he is also a very intelligent rugby player. If you ask Danny Wilson [the team’s forwards coach], he will say he is one of the best line-out forwards he’s ever worked with. That line-out ability is a real strength. His tactical nous is very similar to John Barclay’s in terms of knowing the opposition and knowing what we need to do to win. If you have more players like that in your group before a big game like this it really helps planning and gives others confidence.”

Townsend made the same case when explaining Tommy Seymour’s selection on the right wing ahead of the hugely exciting but relatively callow Darcy Graham.

“Tommy has played really well for Scotland and he is in great physical condition,” he said. “He has been unfortunate over this period that he went off with an injury against France, and he was playing well against Georgia but had to move to full-back when Blair [Kinghorn] got injured.

“He brings a lot of strengths, one of them being in the air. We know Ireland, like a number of teams, will use the kicking game; and we use the kicking game more and more now and we see Tommy and Sean Maitland being real weapons there.”

The kicking game will be especially important on Sunday if it is as wet as forecast, although the weather in these parts is notoriously unpredictable.

“Two days ago, it was looking like it would almost be in the middle of a typhoon. Today it says it will be dry in the afternoon and wet in the evening – but I don't know when the afternoon turns to evening!” shrugged Townsend. “We were on the pitch today and it's in excellent condition. There's a game on it tomorrow night but I believe it's to be dry tomorrow. Let's wait for Sunday and see.”

In almost every marginal call, Townsend has gone for the man with the most caps – Ryan Wilson ahead of Thomson at No8, Greig Laidlaw ahead of Ali Price at scrum-half and Seymour ahead of Darcy Graham on the wing – meaning that there are 630 caps littered through Sunday’s starting XV. That eclipses, by quite some distance, the previous record for most caps in a single Scotland side which was 581 against France in 2003 and against England in 2011.

The reason for this is no secret. Experience brings wisdom and Townsend needs players who will make the right decisions at the right times in such an important game. The one thing that has consistently undermined Scotland’s recent attempts to establish themselves on a level-footing with the big boys has been costly mistakes at key moments.

In the last Six Nations game against Ireland, the win was there for the taking, and a couple of silly errors cost the boys in blue, including a calamitous mix up at the back between Seymour and Sean Maitland which gifted Conor Murray Ireland’s first try. It was a similar situation when Ireland came out on top in Dublin in 2018, with Pete Horne’s intercepted pass gifting Jacob Stockdale a giveaway try and then Huw Jones butchered a walk-in for Hogg, which amounted to a 14-point swing in a match which was much closer than the 28-8 final score-line suggests.

Scotland can’t afford to be as profligate again this week. Townsend has picked a team that can rip it up given half a chance, but he has done his best to make sure that there is enough rugby sense there to know when to stick and when to twist.

Scotland (v Ireland in Yokohama, Sunday 22 September, kick-off 4.45pm Japan time, 8.45am BST): Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Sam Johnson, Duncan Taylor, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson. Substitutes: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Scott Cummings, Blade Thomson, Ali Price, Chris Harris, Darcy Graham.