Rugby Union: Scotland pursue full-back gamble

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The Independent Online
GREGOR TOWNSEND has been handed his first international start at full-back for Scotland's World Cup qualifier with Portugal on Saturday.

The Lions stand-off will pull on the navy blue No 15 jersey after impressing there as an early replacement for the injured Derrick Lee in last weekend's 35-10 defeat to South Africa. Originally dropped for the Springboks match in favour of Duncan Hodge, the 25-year-old now has an outstanding chance to prove his long-term potential at full-back in what should be a landslide Scotland victory.

Keith Wood, the Lions hooker, earned a full recall to the Ireland side yesterday but will not return as captain in Saturday's Test against South Africa at Lansdowne Road.

The Irish selectors, who retained the lock Paddy Johns in that role, announced a team showing six changes from the side which beat Romania in a World Cup qualifier last weekend.

The Lions pair of prop Paul Wallace, who has a sprained ankle, and back row man Eric Miller, who was concussed on Saturday, were ruled out.

They have been replaced by Justin Fitzpatrick and Dion O'Cuinneagain, who was born in Cape Town and two years ago was playing for Western Province.

The other changes showed the return of Kevin Maggs at centre and Conor McGuinness at scrum-half while the 22-year-old Girvan Dempsey makes his first start in an Ireland jersey on the left wing.

Wood missed Ireland's World Cup win over Georgia 10 days ago because of a contractual dispute with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

That, however, has now been resolved and, after coming on as a half-time replacement against Romania, Wood takes over again in the starting line- up.

"It's great to be back," the Harlequins front row man said. "It's a big match and a big stage and I am delighted to be part of it."

Teams, Digest, page 31

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