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RWC 2019: Five talking points ahead of Scotland v Russia

Fourteen changes have been made to the Scotland starting XV for this match with only Darcy Graham remaining from the Samoa game.

The ‘big guns’ have been rested in preparation for the big Pool A game with Japan, but first this team has to beat Russia with a bonus point. It is also a big opportunity for players to force their way into the starting team for Sunday’s match with the hosts.

Five points is a must here…

Five talking points

Can Zander Fagerson put in a big performance?

What the Russian team lack in skill they make up for in sheer heart and desire up from and their bulky forwards will e out to cause the Scots a few bothers at scrum time. To that end Scotland tighthead prop Zander Fagerson will have to scrummage well while he will be looking to dominate to earn him a place on the bench behind WP Nel at the weekend.

Will Ben Toolis’ play do the talking?

The normally mild mannered big Australian-born second-row admitted this week that he has been frustrated by his lack of game time at the showpiece event have been usurped in the matchday 23 by Scott Cummings for the first two outings. He starts alongside Cummings in this one, so expect Toolis’ first carry to be a big one!

Brown at seven

 With Hamish Watson having already returned home from Japan due to injury, Gregor Townsend is keen to rest Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie and Blade Thomson as much as possible. As a result hooker Fraser Brown reverts to his old position in the back-row and knows he will be a busy man dealing with the Russians when it comes to the breakdown area.

Taylor’s time?

When the tournament started it very much looked like Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor were the first choice centre pairing, but Chris Harris’ competent showing in the win over Samoa has cast some doubt over that. Duncan Taylor is still getting used to regular game time after a bad injury and this match could be one for him to get a bit more space with ball in hand.

A blast of hot Blair?

Like Ben Toolis, his Edinburgh team mate Blair Kinghorn has waited patiently for his chance and will start at full-back. He will be keen to run the ball back at any opportunity in this one, but the decision making of the youngster will be put under the microscope and it will be interesting to see how he does. A very dangerous open field runner if he gets going.

Scotland v Russia takes place at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on Wednesday, October 9 (kick-off 8.15am BST, 4.15pm local time) – live on ITV

Main photo by David Gibson/Fotosport

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