Townsend giving the orders at stand-off

Bill Leith previews a sports occasion of celebration and remembrance
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The Independent Online
One of the most poignant occasions in the history of Scottish sport will unfold today at Murrayfield, where a crowd of around 30,000 is expected to watch a Scotland XV take on the Barbarians to honour the memory of 16 children and their teacher killed by a gunman at Dunblane Primary School earlier this year.

Of all the projects undertaken by the Scottish Rugby Union, few could have been so demanding as arranging an event in which a balance has had to be struck between a celebration of sport and remembering the dead. In the circumstances, the talk of any early-season benefits to the team that this game will provide in the implications of investing the captaincy in Gregor Townsend seems slightly callous.

But sport would be futile without some kind of competitive edge, and Charlie Laidlaw, of the SRU, has stressed that all the organising has taken place in conjunction with the Dunblane community, among whom the Scottish team completed preparations at the local high school yesterday. Townsend said the exercise, which attracted a crowd of 500, had proved beneficial in terms of putting the game into perspective. Townsend will play at stand-off as opposed to the centre position he occupied for much of last season with Northampton.

Jim Telfer, who is standing down as team manager to concentrate on his duties as director of rugby, is among the officials who have been insisting all week that the Barbarians, drawn from eight countries and brought together at short notice, represent a realistic test.

The assistant coach, David Johnston, recalled yesterday that in previous trips to Murrayfield the Barbarians had thrown up hitherto unknown talents such as the Springboks Danie Gerber and Andre Joubert. This time it could be the turn of the Argentinian scrum-half Augustin Pichot, who is linked with a move to Leicester.

Scott Hastings today will be playing for the first time against his older brother Gavin, who has emerged from representative retirement - and a career in American football - to boost the "names" in the Barbarian side, which also includes the former All Black No 8 Arran Pene.

SCOTLAND: R Shepherd; D Stark (both Melrose), S Hastings (Watsonians), R Eriksson (London Scottish), K Logan (Stirling County); G Townsend (Northampton, capt), G Armstrong (Newcastle); D Hilton (Bath), G Ellis (Currie), P Wright (Melrose), D Cronin (Wasps), G Weir (Newcastle), B Renwick (Hawick), E Peters (Bath), I Smith (Gloucester).

BARBARIANS: G Hastings (Scot, capt); A Bose (Fiji), Y Motoki (Japan), A McCormack (NZ), T Underwood (Eng); P Howard (Aus), A Pichot (Arg); G Roundtree, R Cockrill, D Garforth (all Eng), R McCall (Aus), P Johns (Ire), M Gasuna (Fiji), A Pene (NZ), I Morrison (Scot).

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