Gregor Townsend insists there is enough experience in the Scotland squad that will play Canada on Saturday despite their lack of Test caps. 

Townsend’s squad for the match in Ottawa features 10 debutants – five starters in the shape of Glasgow Warriors pair Max Williamson and Gregor Brown, Sale Sharks duo Gus Warr and Arron Reed and Edinburgh’s Matt Currie.  

A further five players – Northampton hooker Robbie Smith, Glasgow prop Nathan McBeth and his Leicester Tigers counterpart Will Hurd, Oyonnax lock Ewan Johnson and wing Ross McCann – will win their first Scotland caps if they are called upon from the bench.  

The starting back division has eight caps combined, with Ross Thompson’s three leading the individual charts.

The tally among the forwards is significantly higher at 50 – but that is bolstered by 30-cap Rory Sutherland starting at loosehead prop. 

 Townsend, though, is confident the players have enough experience for the challenge that awaits this weekend.  

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He said: “We’ve seen in terms of what players have brought with their clubs, we feel that they can make a difference at Test level.  

“We know it’s not going to be perfect at the weekend. It’s a new team, we’re playing different opposition, and the connections, the cohesion, might not be there in the beginning. But that’s part of the process too - working [out] what we need to do throughout the game. It helps us win, it helps us put pressure on the opposition. 

"It’s an exciting prospect for us as a team - we’ve got to be sharp with our learning and our communication on the back of that special day for a lot of our players.” 

A first cap will be just the latest ‘special day’ for Sale winger Arron Reed, who qualifies for Scotland through his Linlithgow-born father.  

Reed joined up with the Scotland squad less than 24 hours after getting married. 

Townsend said: “We did ask him if he needed to miss Wednesday’s session last week, and he said he was good. He had a great wedding day and now he’s getting his first cap. 

“Him and Sione [Tuipulotu] have had some of the best weeks. Sione became a father, won the URC and then got engaged, in all in the space of about 10 days, and Arron is doing something similar with getting married and winning his first cap. 

“He’s got some super-strengths of footwork and speed, so we just want to see him get on the ball as much as possible this weekend.” 

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Reed has many of the same physical attributes as soon-to-be Edinburgh wing Ross McCann, but the pair’s emotions on joining up with Scotland will have been vastly contrasting.  

While Reed had just tied the knot, McCann became available after the GB Sevens squad he was part of failed to qualify for the Paris Olympics.  

Townsend said the 26-year-old has been added in place of Darcy Graham, who is not being risked after an injury-hit season.  

Ross McCann joined the squad last weekRoss McCann joined the squad last week (Image: SNS)

“I was chatting to Darcy last week and he's probably ready to go now but we just felt that after being out for a period, coming back straight into playing Test match rugby was a risk we didn't want to take with him.  

“We had an eye on GB Sevens and we were hoping they would qualify but we'd been really impressed with Ross.  

“The transfer between sevens and 15s is maybe the easiest at wing compared to other positions. We want our wingers on ball, taking opposition on 1-on-1 - that is something Ross does really well. It was really just Sunday night making sure Ross was available after the sevens.  

“It has been a mixed week for Ross with not qualifying for the Olympics and now winning his first cap but he's trained well since he's been with us and he'll definitely get on at the weekend." 

Townsend has no shortage of options on the wing, but explained why Jamie Dobie, a scrum-half by trade who has filled in out wide for Glasgow, has been handed a first Test start there.  

Jamie Dobie has two caps - both in his more natural position of scrum-half - but will start on the wing against CanadaJamie Dobie has two caps - both in his more natural position of scrum-half - but will start on the wing against Canada (Image: SNS)

It is, he said, partly to manage the squad, before admitting Dobie has caught the eye on the wing for the Warriors.  

Townsend added: “We’re also increasingly impressed with Jamie, the more he plays on the wing. There are parts to his game which really thrive in that position. His defence, his speed and his high-ball ability.  

“What he’s done really well is come in and be a passer. There have been a couple of tries that Glasgow have scored where Jamie has been the blind side winger and put that key pass in. 

“We do believe scrum half is his best position, but playing on the wing can help him play more games at times and also help his running game and his support lines when he goes to nine.  

“He’ll get an opportunity to play nine this weekend and also later on in the tour.” 

While this weekend brings opportunities for all-but one of the uncapped players on the tour – Edinburgh's Patrick Harrison the one to miss out - Townsend has rested some of his more experienced players.  

Paddy Harrison is the only uncapped player in the group not involved this weekendPaddy Harrison is the only uncapped player in the group not involved this weekend (Image: SNS)

Among those who will watch from the stands at TD Place Stadium are Duhan van der Merwe, Huw Jones, Jamie Ritchie and Scott Cummings.  

Townsend said: “A lot of them might be involved next week against USA so they are getting to train this week and next week to get a good build-up into that game.  

“This group have had this week and last week to prepare. It will be a different group that plays against USA." 

Townsend has stuck with the co-captaincy model he implemented during the Six Nations, with Luke Crosbie and Stafford McDowall the men who will lead Scotland this weekend.  

Luke Crosbie will share the Scotland captaincy with Stafford McDowall Luke Crosbie will share the Scotland captaincy with Stafford McDowall (Image: SNS)

 The Scotland head coach is confident that McDowall, who shone in the Six Nations defeat to Ireland, will cope with the added responsibility of leading the team.  

"He’s been excellent and really consistent form for Glasgow over the last couple of seasons, so, we probably see him as someone who probably looks like person who has played 20 Tests,” Townsend added.  

“I’m sure he would have learned a lot that day in Dublin, and now he’s getting an opportunity to start again and be one of our key leaders this weekend. He will have a lot of confidence on how to play at Test level.” 

The teams

Canada: Cooper Coats, Andrew Coe, Mitch Richardson, Ben LeSage, Nic Benn, Peter Nelson, Jason Higgins; Liam Murray, Andrew Quattrin, Conor Young, Conor Keys, Kyle Baillie, Mason Flesch, Lucas Rumball (captain), Siaki Vikilani

Replacements: Jesse Mackail, Djustice Sears-Duru, Cole Keith, James Stockwood, Sion Parry, Brock Gallagher Talon McMullin, Takoda McMullin

Scotland: Harry Paterson, Jamie Dobie, Matt Currie, Stafford McDowall (co-captain), Arron Reed, Ross Thompson, Gus Warr; Rory Sutherland, Dylan Richardson, Elliot Millar Mills, Max Williamson, Glen Young, Gregor Brown, Luke Crosbie (co-captain), Josh Bayliss

Replacements: Robbie Smith, Nathan McBeth, Will Hurd, Ewan Johnson, Matt Fagerson, Ben Healy, Kyle Steyn, Ross McCann