Scotland will open the Skyscanner summer tour against Canada in Ottawa on Saturday evening (UK time). 

Ahead of the game, we look at some of the key battles and the important stats. 

  • There are 14 changes to the Scotland starting XV from their last Test (v Ireland) with Stafford McDowall the only player still in the same jersey from that previous match.
  • This is the fourth time there have been this number of changes to a Scotland team during the Townsend era, including the dark blues’ last encounter with Canada in 2018.
  • There are 10 uncapped players plus another 10 with less than 10 caps. The other three players – Kyle Steyn, Rory Sutherland and Matt Fagerson – have 19, 36 and 44 caps, respectively.
  • There have been 63 previous debuts in the Gregor Townsend era with the next highest tally for a single fixture being eight against Tonga at Murrayfield in 2021.
  • Across the last 30 years, 248 players have won their first Scottish caps. Saturday’s game will take the total number of debutants who have made their bow against Canada during this period to 27. That’s more than against any other nation, ahead of Australia (25), Italy (22), Wales (21) and France (19).


Canada vs Scotland head-to-heads (backs)Canada vs Scotland head-to-heads: the backs (Image: Kevin Millar)

Ross Thompson will be the 100th player to start a match for Scotland under head coach Gregor Townsend.

He is one of 10 among the XV who have never previously started for the national side, with five new caps being joined by Thompson, Jamie Dobie, Dylan Richardson, Elliot Millar-Mills and Glen Young who have only made substitute appearances for the national side.

This is the first time for more than four years that Scotland have started a game with neither Darcy Graham nor Duhan van der Merwe in the back three. The last occasion was the final pre-pandemic Six Nations game against France in 2020 when Blair Kinghorn, Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg filled the 11, 14 and 15 jerseys.

Of all the positions in the backline this is the area that arguably has the least depth. There is no question that the first-choice options are extremely high quality, with a couple of handy backups, but beyond that the numbers are pretty low.

Scotland generally haven’t been strong at producing flying wingers who also have the requisite skill levels for Test level rugby, which probably makes Arron Reed a player that the coaches will be keeping the closest of eyes on.

Canada vs Scotland head-to-heads: forwardsCanada vs Scotland head-to-heads: forwards (Image: Kevin Millar)

Rory Sutherland has 30 caps – the rest of Scotland’s starting XV have a combined total of 28 caps.

Zander Fagerson and WP Nel have started 95% of Scotland’s last 55 games, dating back to the warm-up fixtures prior to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

During that time there have been single Test appearances in the number three jersey for Simon Berghan, Murphy Walker and Javan Sebastian, but nobody has been able to properly crack the tighthead duopoly.

With the retirement of Nel that is now almost a pure monopoly. The elder Fagerson has recently demonstrated his ability to play the full 80 minutes at the highest level for his club but this is not a long-term option – especially for a player who will need his game time managed over the next couple of seasons with a Lions’ tour next summer.

There are never likely to be huge numbers of Scottish tightheads but Gregor Townsend will be looking to add at least a couple of consistent presences to get close to the level of the Fagerson, Nel, Berghan trifecta that got the national side through so many matches.


Canada vs Scotland head-to-heads: replacementsCanada vs Scotland head-to-heads: replacements (Image: Kevin Millar)

Surprisingly, this isn’t the least experienced bench selected during the Townsend era, there are actually four occasions where the replacements have had fewer collective caps:

  • 48 – Canada 2018
  • 55 – Argentina 2022 (1st Test)
  • 58 – Argentina 2018
  • 67 – Argentina 2022 (3rd Test)

Matt Fagerson has nearly as many caps as the other 12 forwards selected in the matchday squad – 44 v 50.

Kyle Steyn has more caps than the other nine backs selected in the matchday squad – 19 v 13.


Referee: Adam Leal (England); Assistants: Kat Roche and Kahlil Harrison (both USA); TMO: Austin Reed (USA)

Referee Adam Leal will take charge of Scotland for the first timeReferee Adam Leal will take charge of Scotland for the first time (Image: PA)

Leal will be the first new referee for a Scotland game since Nika Amshukeli during the 2023 Six Nations. He did take charge of Glasgow’s Champions Cup win over Bayonne earlier this season.

In their last 34 matches against tier two opposition, Scotland have won the penalty count 27 times, tied it once and lost seven. The card count in these games is Scotland 10 – 29 Opponents.

Since the start of last summer and the RWC matches, Scotland have lost the penalty count in 9 of their 14 games at an average of 14.0 – 8.2 per game.


Scotland have only won three of their last six full Tests on summer tours after winning eight of nine immediately prior to that.

Current world rankings: 21 Canada (60.90) vs 6 Scotland (82.82)

The significant difference between these two sides means that Scotland cannot gain any world ranking points if they win. If they lose then they would concede either 2.00 or 3.00 points (loss by 15 or fewer, loss by 16 or more respectively).

There are 126 caps among the matchday 23, with 340 collectively for the 15 other players in the Summer Tour squad who have not been selected for this game.

Starting XV stats compared to Scotland’s last Test (v Ireland):

  • Tries scored – 1 v 106
  • Average weight – 100.5kg v 105.5kg
  • Caps – 58 v 548
  • Average age – 25.9 v 28.6

Compared to the rest of the Townsend era (80 Test matches) this starting XV has the:

  • Second youngest average age – 25.9 (youngest, 25.0 v USA 2018).
  • Fewest tries scored – 1 (second fewest, 8 v Canada 2018)
  • Fewest previous starts – 28 (second fewest, 96 v Canada 2018)
  • Fewest caps – 58 (second fewest, 177 v Canada 2018)