Gregor Townsend has made wholesale changes to his Scotland team that will face USA in Washington DC on Friday evening (UK time).  

After an experimental side featuring 10 new caps thrashed Canada 73-12 in the summer tour opener last weekend, Townsend has reverted to a stronger side for the match at Audi Field.  

Former captain Jamie Ritchie will win his 50th cap and lines up alongside Matt Fagerson and Rory Darge in the back-row. Darge and Sione Tuipulotu will co-captain the side.  

Ritchie’s milestone appearance will come at the end of a season in which he’s led Scotland at the World Cup, lost the captaincy for the Six Nations, then lost his place in the team before rediscovering his best form to be named Edinburgh’s Player of the Season.  

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Townsend paid tribute to the former skipper: “It’s a great achievement for him and his family. He’s had a few injuries in his career, some serious ones - he’s put his body on the line for Scotland ever since he came through on this tour to North America six years ago.  

“Talking about Jamie now, I felt his performances in the Six Nations and how he conducted himself in training and off-field when he wasn’t selected in a couple of matches was outstanding, a real credit to who he is as a person and a leader.  

Townsend praised Ritchie's response to losing the captaincy during the Six NationsTownsend praised Ritchie's response to losing the captaincy during the Six Nations (Image: SNS)

“Also he is playing probably the best rugby of his career.

"He finished the season in excellent form and he continued that in training, so he can go into the game with real confidence.

"It’s his 50th cap and he’s in great condition so there are many more to come.” 

The match will also see Adam Hastings win his first cap in almost two years after an injury-hit spell, while Murphy Walker and Alex Craig are also handed opportunities to impress. 

For fly-half Hastings, who made his debut on an Americas tour six years ago, it is a chance to show Townsend he can challenge Finn Russell for the number 10 jersey, or at least he deserves to be the ‘best of the rest’.  

Townsend said: “Adam has missed out on some opportunities that he probably would have got. He was a key player for us who had played a number of games and was growing and developing as a 10.  

“To miss out on the chance to be involved in the World Cup, to have a couple of injuries this year as well, it’s great to see him back.  

“He brings a real energy, on and off the field. He’s been training very well and he’s got his opportunity this week.” 

Dundee-born Glasgow Warriors prop Walker, a product of Strathallan School, has Murphy Walker made his Scotland debut against Fiji in November 2022Murphy Walker made his Scotland debut against Fiji in November 2022 (Image: SNS) endured a difficult year of calf, quad and knee injuries.  


He only featured twice for Glasgow in the United Rugby Championship due to neck and but is held in high regard by the national team coaches.  

Townsend said: “He’s had a stop-start season but was back fit by the end of it and did well when Glasgow went to the Bulls before the play-offs. 

“We’ve got four tightheads on tour and they’re all going to get opportunities for game time. This week Murphy gets his chance to start.” 

Dumfries-born Scarlets lock Craig, meanwhile, will make his first Scotland appearance since the 2021 win in Paris.  

Injuries have played a part in that absence, and also kept the 27-year-old out of the Canada win, but he is now back to make his first Test start.  

Townsend said: "He’s someone who’s waited a while for his opportunity. He played when we beat France in Paris in 2021 and I thought he was excellent that season but he had a couple of injuries, moved to Scarlets and was very consistent with them.  

Alex Craig will win his first cap since the 2021 Six Nations against USAAlex Craig will win his first cap since the 2021 Six Nations against USA (Image: SNS)

“Throughout the season he got better and better and was their player of the season which is a huge achievement for someone coming in from another club, not a local player. 

“What he brings is aggression and work rate, he goes forward, loves the contact side of the game. I think he complements Scott well in terms of how they control the lineout with their skillset.” 

Saturday’s match is a chance to vanquish the ghosts of a shock defeat to Friday’s opponents in Houston six years ago.  

He said the 30-29 defeat was mentioned in the immediate aftermath of the Canada thrashing and knows it will be in the minds of the players involved that day. George Horne , Hastings and Matt Fagerson were part of the team, while Jamie Ritchie was in the wider squad.  

Townsend said: “I’m sure they’ll be talking about that this weekend. We’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to aim to build on that performance at the weekend and be better with this group than we were last week but we know USA will be real tough opposition.” 

The USA go into Friday’s game having lost 22-20 to Romania – a team Scotland hammered 84-0 at last year’s World Cup - in Chicago last weekend.  

Townsend believes that will make Scott Lawrence’s charges more dangerous.  

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"It's probably even more of a challenge when you face a team that has just had a defeat,” he said, before detailing what he expects of the Eagles.  

Townsend added: “They'll come out firing and they'll be really physical. They are very aggressive defensively, they have a blitz defence so that can create issues in the attack so we've got to be aware of that, but the focus is on our performance and making sure we improve from last week.”