Taylor to make long-awaited Scotland comeback against France

By Sports Desk August 14, 2019

Duncan Taylor will win his first cap for over two years and Stuart McInally will captain Scotland in their first Rugby World Cup warm-up match against France on Saturday.

Taylor has not played for his country since June 2017 due to injury problems, but the 29-year-old will make up a new centre pairing with Huw Jones at the Allianz Riviera in Nice.

Fellow midfielder Rory Hutchinson and lock Scott Cummings could make their debuts off the bench against Les Bleus.

Adam Hastings gets the nod at fly-half and Ali Price starts at scrum-half five weeks before Scotland face Ireland in their World Cup opener in Yokohama City.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said: "A huge amount of work has gone in throughout the past two months in order to deliver our best level of performance in the Rugby World Cup.

"These four Tests are a vital part of that process in terms of testing our systems and combinations but also in seeing which players put their best foot forward when it comes to selection for the final 31-man group going to Japan next month."

 

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Darcy Graham, Huw Jones, Duncan Taylor, Byron McGuigan, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, Stuart McInally (captain), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay, Jamie Ritchie, Josh Strauss.

Replacements: George Turner, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Blair Kinghorn.

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    Saracens are facing up to a potential player exodus after the worst-kept secret in the Premiership was confirmed with the announcement the London club are to be relegated for breaching salary-cap regulations.

    The London club were docked 35 points and fined £5.36million in November for flouting the rules in each of the past three seasons, and currently sit bottom of the Premiership.

    However, after talks between Premiership Rugby and Saracens in the aftermath of the initial punishment, the club will now drop down to the Championship for 2020-21.

    It throws up huge doubts over the future of some of the Premiership's biggest names, who have all tasted success with Saracens over the club's recent period of dominance – including a domestic and European double last term.

    Six Saracens players started in England's Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa - including captain Owen Farrell - while Vincent Koch featured for the Springboks in that match.

    Meanwhile, Liam Williams, a regular for Wales in the tournament, has already started the departures, having agreed to rejoin Scarlets at the end of the season.

    Following the news of Saracens' impending relegation to the second tier, we take a look at the star names who seem destined to become available.

    Owen Farrell

    Sure to be in demand is England skipper Farrell has spent his entire senior career with Saracens, having made his debut aged 17 in 2008, becoming - at the time - the youngest player to appear in an English professional rugby union match. He has gone on to become one of the world's best players, winning the Six Nations twice with England as well as five Premiership titles and three Champions Cups with Saracens.

    Maro Itoje

    Having won four Premierships and three European Champions Cups at club level by the age of 25, Maro Itoje is expected to be a man in demand. The British and Irish Lion, who plays lock or blindside flanker, should still have his best years ahead of him but is already an established international player, having won two Six Nations trophies and helped England to the World Cup final last year as part of his 34 caps. He has spent his whole professional career at Saracens.

    Mako Vunipola

    The elder Vunipola brother joined up with Saracens from Bristol in 2011 and has made 110 appearances, scoring 15 tries. He made his England debut in 2012 against Fiji and has been a key player for club and country ever since. 

    Billy Vunipola

    Two years after his sibling had signed for Saracens, Billy Vunipola followed suit. He has played in 71 Premiership matches for Sarries, with 15 tries to his name and has featured in just 11 defeats. Internationally, he has made 51 Test appearances for England.

    Elliot Daly

    The versatile back - who has featured in 42 Tests for England - only joined Saracens from Wasps in 2019 ahead of the current Premiership season. He has scored 13 tries for England and one in four Premiership appearances so far for Saracens.

    Jamie George

    Like Farrell, George came through the ranks at Saracens and made his first-team debut just a year after the England captain. He has made over 150 Premiership appearances for the club, starting 83 times and accumulating 125 points from 25 tries. At 29, it seems unlikely the hooker will be wishing to drop into the Championship.

    Vincent Koch

    Signed in 2016, Koch has scored three top-flight tries during his time with Saracens, making 48 Premiership appearances in total. The prop did not start for South Africa in November's World Cup showdown in Japan, though came on early in the second half to help the Springboks to a 32-12 victory.

    Will Skelton

    Former Australia lock Skelton was linked with a move back to the southern hemisphere last year before signing a new deal. He has scored three tries for Saracens since joining, and made 18 Test appearances for the Wallabies between 2014 and 2016.

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    Ulster secured a European Champions Cup quarter-final spot with a 22-15 defeat of Bath, while Northampton Saints and Glasgow Warriors stayed in the hunt for qualification on Saturday.

    Clermont Auvergne sealed top spot in Pool 3 with a 26-19 victory at Harlequins, but Ulster knew a defeat of Bath would see them through as one of three best-placed runners-up.

    The Pro14 side got the job done in the second half after the two sides were level at 7-7 at the break, Robert Baloucoune and Will Addison going over to add to a first-half try from Marcell Coetzee before Billy Burns was on target with a penalty.

    Tries from Ruaridh McConnochie and Ross Batty, who was later red-carded for a no-arms tackle on John Cooney, were not enough for Bath to end the competition on a high note.

    Northampton did all they could to advance as runners-up with a 36-24 victory at Top 14 high-flyers Lyon in Pool 1.

    The Saints will go progress if either Saracens or Gloucester fail to pick up maximum points wins on Sunday after Mike Haywood, Teimana Harrison, Cobus Reinach, George Furbank and James Fish touched down in a bonus-point triumph at Matmut Stade de Gerland.

    Glasgow must hope defending champions Sarries, whose relegation from the Premiership at the of the season for persistent salary-cap breaches was announced on Saturday, and Gloucester slip up after demolishing Sale Sharks 45-7 in Pool 2.

    Leone Nakarawa set the tone early on with one of six Glasgow tries at the AJ Bell Stadium, where Adam Hastings scored 15 points from the tee.

    Leinster made it six victories out of six in Pool 1 with an 18-0 defeat of Benetton Treviso, while Sam Simmonds grabbed a double as Pool 2 winners Exeter Chiefs saw off La Rochelle 33-14 at Sandy Park.

    Beleaguered Sarries host Racing 92 on the final day of pool matches reeling from the announcement that they will drop of out of the Premiership, while Gloucester travel to Toulouse.

  • Saracens relegated from the Premiership Saracens relegated from the Premiership

    Defending champions Saracens will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 2019-20 season, Premiership Rugby has confirmed.

    Sarries, who won the English top flight and the European Champions Cup last season, were docked 35 points and fined £5.36million in November for breaching salary cap regulations in each of the past three seasons.

    The London club are bottom of the Premiership table on minus seven points but have the joint-best record in the division with six wins in eight matches this term.

    However, after talks between the governing body and Saracens in the aftermath of the latter's initial punishment, it has been decided they will drop down to the Championship for next term.

    Recently appointed Saracens chairman Neil Golding said: "I acknowledge the club has made errors in the past and we unreservedly apologise for those mistakes.

    "I and the rest of the board are committed to overseeing stringent new governance measures to ensure regulatory compliance going forward."

    Premiership Rugby has launched an independent review into the salary cap as a result of the Saracens saga, which will be led by former Treasury minister Lord Myners.

    Chief executive Darren Childs said: "Premiership Rugby is prepared to take strong action to enforce the regulations governing fair competition between our clubs.

    "At the conclusion of dialogue with Saracens about their compliance with the salary cap regulations, it has been decided that Saracens will be relegated at the end of this season."

    Childs added: "The actions that we have taken – dealing with breaches of the current regulations and reviewing the system for the future – will help us to build a stronger league and uphold the confidence of supporters."

    Six Saracens players started for England in their World Cup final loss to South Africa in November, including captain Owen Farrell, but a star-studded line-up now looks certain to be broken up.

    On Sunday, Sarries face Racing 92 in the Champions Cup, where victory will virtually secure progress to the knockout stages.

    Farrell is joined in the starting XV by England colleagues Elliot Daly, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Mako and Billy Vunipola, and a run in this season's tournament is likely to be a last hurrah for this collective.

    Even if they win Europe's top competition for the fourth time in their last five attempts, Saracens' Championship status will mean they are barred from entering next year.

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