Scotland start Hardie against France in WC warmup

Controversial inclusion John Hardie will have a chance to show why he is in
Scotland’s World Cup squad after being named Thursday in the side to play France
in their final warm-up match in Paris on Saturday.

The New Zealand-born flanker got into coach Vern Cotter’s 31-man tournament
squad ahead of both John Barclay and Blair Cowan.

Hardie, 27, qualified for Scotland through his Fife-born grandparents, only
arrived on Scottish soil for the first time five weeks ago and has played less
than an hour of Test rugby union.

His inclusion was labelled a disgrace to Scottish-born players by former Scotland
and British and Irish Lions prop Peter Wright.

Hardie, currently without a club after leaving New Zealand’s Highlanders, will
now be in the spotlight when Kiwi coach Cotter’s side face France ahead of their
World Cup opener against Japan in Gloucester, south-west England, on September
23.

The openside flanker was one of five changes to the side that thrashed Italy
48-7 at Murrayfield last weekend.

Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour, who missed Scotland’s previous warm-up Tests
against Ireland and the two against Italy, are both back.

Maitland was ruled out with a shoulder injury while back trouble sidelined
Seymour.

Centre Matt Scott starts alongside Mark Bennett in place of Peter Horne while,
up front, Richie Gray starts at lock alongside brother Jonny in place of Grant
Gilchrist.

“We were pleased with a number of aspects of our performance against Italy
but feel we still have a lot of work to get through before we begin the Rugby
World Cup, ” said Cotter, with France having beaten tournament hosts England
25-20 in their previous warm-up fixture.

“France are a very powerful and skilful side so this match will provide
another good assessment for this group, and another valuable insight into where
we are at as a squad, ” Cotter added.

Scotland

Sean Maitland; Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Finn Russell,
Greig Laidlaw (capt); David Denton, John Hardie, Ryan Wilson; Jonny Gray, Richie
Gray; Willem Nel, Ross Ford, Alasdair Dickinson

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Tim Swinson, Alasdair Strokosch,
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Duncan Weir, Sean Lamont

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