Scots go with full strength for crunch match with Samoa

Scotland training in the sunshine at St James' Park yesterday.
Scotland training in the sunshine at St James' Park yesterday.

Scotland have reverted to what’s regarded as Vern Cotter’s first choice XV for the do-or-die final Rugby World Cup pool game against Samoa in Newcastle on Saturday.

It’s the same starting team that faced Japan in the opener with the exception of Sean Maitland’s inclusion on the wing for Sean Lamont, who is likely to win his 100th cap for his country off the bench.

The seven changes from the team that lost 34-16 to South Africa at St James’ Park on Saturday means a return for fly-half Finn Russell, who missed the Springbok match with an ankle injury, and also for openside flanker John Hardie, who has been absent since the Japan win with concussion symptoms.

The Scots’ three other injury worries out of Saturday’s game were Ross Ford and Matt Scott, who have both cleared concussion protocols, and Stuart Hogg, who has recovered from back and cramping problems. Hogg will be the only player to start all four games in Pool B.

Mark Bennett, Alasdair Dickinson and Ryan Wilson all return to the starting line-up.

Scotland are likely to have to win Saturday’s game against the Samoans if they want to reach the quarter-finals, a stage they’ve reached in every Rugby World Cup except the last in 2011.

Scotland team: S Hogg (Glasgow); S Maitland (London Irish), M Bennett (Glasgow), M Scott (Edinburgh), T Seymour (Glasgow); F Russell (Glasgow), G Laidlaw (Gloucester, capt); A Dickinson, R Ford, W Nel (alll Edinburgh); R Gray (Castres), J Gray (Glasgow); R Wilson (Glasgow), J Hardie (unattached), D Denton (Edinburgh).

Replacements: G Reid (Glasgow), F Brown (Glasgow), J Welsh (Newcastle), T Swinson (Glasgow), J Strauss (Glasgow), H Pyrgos (Glasgow), P Horne (Glasgow), s Lamont (Glasgow).