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Rory Sutherland and Chris Harris return to Scotland side as Gregor Townsend makes four changes for Tonga clash

Rory Sutherland makes first start for Scotland in 19 months; Chris Harris will also make his second start of 2023; Scott Cummings and Kyle Steyn also return to the starting XV; Gregor Townsend has challenged his side to kick-start their tournament

Scotland's Chris Harris
Image: Scotland's Chris Harris

British and Irish Lions pair Rory Sutherland and Chris Harris have been restored to the Scotland XV for Sunday's Rugby World Cup pool B match against Tonga.

Head coach Gregor Townsend has made four changes in total to his starting line-up for the must-win encounter in Nice, with Scott Cummings and Kyle Steyn also added.

Prop Sutherland will make only his second start for the national team in 19 months after slipping down the pecking order since his involvement with the Lions two years ago. The 31-year-old takes the place of Pierre Schoeman, who drops to the bench.

Similarly, centre Harris, who also toured South Africa with the Lions in 2021, will make only his second international start of 2023 after losing his place to Huw Jones at the start of the year. Jones drops to the bench.

Wing Steyn is back in the team in place of Darcy Graham after declaring he was "absolutely gutted" to be left out of the 23 for the South Africa match.

The other change to the starting line-up sees lock Scott Cummings step in for Grant Gilchrist, who drops out of the matchday squad. Scrum-half George Horne and hooker Ewan Ashman are both on the bench after missing the 18-3 defeat against the Springboks with concussion.

Townsend: We have to kick-start our tournament

"We need to get our World Cup started," Townsend said. "You can get your World Cup started with your first game but also your first win. This is obviously a crucial game for us.

"It's our knockout stage now. If we lose a game, we're out the tournament, and every game now ahead of us we have to approach it with that mentality.

"We know this is a really important game for us so we've put out as strong a team as we can to win it. We feel the last 20 minutes are going to be important so to have players like Darcy Graham, Huw Jones and George Horne coming off the bench to give something different for the Tongan defence could be as important as the guys who get to start.

Townsend added: "We have to impose our game-plan and our fitness on Tonga, and show our skills in the final quarter of the match.

"They are strong at the breakdown and we know they are going to be a massively physical threat at the set-piece."

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend prepares for this Sunday's showdown with Tonga
Image: Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend prepares for this Sunday's showdown with Tonga

Sutherland: I'm taking it day by day and focusing on what's important

Sutherland is hoping his surprise recall can help him in his "stressful" search for a new club.

The 31-year-old prop is in the unusual position of being deemed strong enough to start for the fifth highest-ranked team in the world at the global showpiece event but unable, so far, to land himself a contract for the campaign ahead.

"It is a massive opportunity for me this week," he said after being selected in place of Edinburgh's Pierre Schoeman, who drops to the bench on Sunday.

"It's about coping with that pressure day to day, and making sure I channel it into the right things, which means putting out a good performance this weekend.

"There is always a bit of pressure around that but like everything else - other adversities I've overcome during my career - you have to learn to park it, put it to the back of your mind, take things day by day, week by week, and focus on what is important in the here and now.

"For me, that's playing against Tonga this weekend".

Starting XV: 15. Blair Kinghorn, 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Sione Tuipulotu, 11. Duhan van der Merwe, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ben White, 1. Rory Sutherland, 2. George Turner, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Scott Cummings, 6. Jamie Ritchie, 7. Rory Darge, 8. Jack Dempsey

Replacements: 16. Ewan Ashman, 17, Pierre Schoeman, 18. WP Nel, 19. Sam Skinner, 20. Matt Fagerson, 21. George Horne, 22. Huw Jones, 23. Darcy Graham

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