Eight more changes have been made to the Scotland team for the meeting with England which will round off this season’s Six Nations Championship, but head coach Gregor Townsend yesterday indicated that the chopping and changing has been down to attrition rather than uncertainty over selection.

This latest overhaul means that there have been 22 changes to the starting line-up in the course of this seven-week, five match campaign, 18 personnel and four positional. Of those brought in this time, however, only Hamish Watson and Byron McGuigan have not previously started in the competition, both having come off the bench against Wales last weekend.

Half the personnel changes for the trip to Twickenham are as a result of players dropping out through injury, with Watson, McGuigan and Sean Maitland and Sam Skinner replacing Jamie Ritchie, who has been ruled out with neck and shoulder problems, Tommy Seymour who suffered rib damage and Blair Kinghorn who has an ankle problem.

Ben Toolis, Sam Skinner and Sam Johnson, all of whom were in the team when the tournament got underway, are meanwhile recalled with Jonny Gray and Josh Strauss heading to the bench while Pete Horne is out of the 23 altogether.


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The management team’s aversion to being seen to drop players, however, was reflected in Townsend’s explanations of the unenforced changes as he strangely claimed that the wear and tear of the campaign had taken its toll on Gray – who has played just 200 minutes after missing the opener - and Strauss.

“It is a week-to-week game so that players like Jonny and Josh who have been playing well and have put a lot of effort into this Championship, we feel it is better for them coming off the bench this week,” he said.

He seemed to suggest that the need for a rest had also explained Johnson’s omission for the meeting with Wales, then rapid recall.

“Sam in his selection played well the first two games, didn’t play as well in France, but we believe he deserves another opportunity this weekend,” said Townsend.

Watson, who put in a barn-storming performance on coming off the bench against Wales, having missed the previous three matches through injury, would almost certainly have been brought back in even if Ritchie, who has arguably been Scotland’s best forward this season, had not been forced out.

“It might have been a selection we would have looked at anyway because Jamie has played a lot of rugby and taken a lot of hits,” Townsend admitted.

“Unfortunately, he is not available but Hamish is a great man to replace him. I thought his impact was outstanding last weekend. The pace and power he brought in the last 20 minutes was great.”

For all that they have lost three successive matches, Townsend meanwhile paid tribute to the players for the way they have coped with all the rearrangements before and during matches.


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“It’s credit to the players that they’ve adjusted and adapted well to the changes,” he said.

“During the game at the weekend when you’re playing a team that has won 12 in a row and we have to change our back three completely, with the scrum-half on the wing, the players kept playing well.

“That was the period when we put Wales under most pressure, so they have adapted well. We have tended to stick to the squad that was involved right at the beginning of the Championship.

“The changes this week with Sean Maitland, Hamish Watson, Sam Skinner, Ben Toolis coming back in and Sam Johnson, those are players that have been with us for a while, that know what we do in attack and defence, so the continuity shouldn’t be an issue this week.”