Rugby World Cup: 'Scotland are underdogs but we're here to win - Gregor Townsend

Blair Kinghorn, Zander Fagerson and Pierre Schoeman
Blair Kinghorn, Zander Fagerson and Pierre Schoeman

2023 Rugby World Cup

Hosts: France Dates: 8 September to 28 October

Coverage: Full commentary of every Scotland game across BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and Radio Scotland, plus text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Head coach Gregor Townsend wants Scotland "to balance that underdog spirit with the mindset that we're here to win" when they face South Africa in their World Cup opener on Sunday.

The Springboks are heavy favourites going into the clash in Marseille as they look to retain the trophy.

However, Townsend says his team has nothing to lose.

"It's the biggest opportunity you'll get: a World Cup game, playing the world champions," Townsend said.

"We believe we've been building to our best performance, but really this is where it'll count for our players to deliver what they have been delivering in training and in games we've played this year.

"We have every faith they will be able to do that."

Townsend took heart from Scotland's performance in St Etienne in August, when the Scots took France to the wire, ultimately going down 30-27.

"We had nothing to lose in that game," said Townsend, who was part of the Lions coaching staff for the 2021 series in South Africa.

"We were playing the favourites for the World Cup in front of their own supporters and we said to go out there and play like there was nothing to lose.

"For a lot of that game we did that and almost came away with a win, so that mindset is a good one to have. But we also need the mindset that we can win and, if we're ahead in the game, we need to put the foot down and keep playing."

Blair Kinghorn returns at full-back in one of six changes made by coach Townsend from last month's win over Georgia.

Pierre Schoeman, George Turner and Zander Fagerson return to the front row and lock Richie Gray comes back in.

Darcy Graham gets the nod on the wing as Jamie Bhatti, Dave Cherry, WP Nel and Ollie Smith drop to the bench.

Kyle Steyn and Sam Skinner miss out on playing a part in Marseille.

Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ben White, Grant Gilchrist, captain Jamie Ritchie, Rory Darge and Jack Dempsey retain their places following the 33-6 defeat of Georgia, which came after a win and a loss against France and victory over Italy.

Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, Ali Price and Cameron Redpath make up the rest of Townsend's bench.

Meanwhile, Stuart McInally has travelled to France as injury cover for hooker Ewan Ashman, who has picked up a knock in training. McInally has not joined the 33-man squad as yet.

South Africa have beaten Scotland in their past seven meetings, with the Scots' last win coming in 2010.

Townsend's side did not get out of their group at the last World Cup and will also face Tonga, Romania and Ireland in Pool B.

Scotland: Kinghorn, Graham, Jones, Tuipulotu, Van der Merwe, Russell, White; Schoeman, Turner, Z Fagerson, R Gray, Gilchrist, Ritchie (capt), Darge, Dempsey.

Replacements: Cherry, Bhatti, Nel, Cummings, M Fagerson, Price, Redpath, Smith.