TWO new caps in Scotland’s starting XV; another two potential debutants on the bench; a total of only 225 caps in the match-day squad, an average of fewer than 10 per player.

Nobody can accuse Gregor Townsend, the Scotland head coach, of playing things safe.

He knows the risks. He tinkered with the team after they beat Australia on last year’s summer tour and paid the price when they got beaten up by Fiji; he rang the changes again in the final Six Nations match in Italy and again had to watch his players struggle – they won but know they got lucky.

It is not as though the history of matches in Canada, whose current position of world No.21 reflects the trouble they have getting their best side together rather than the talent at their disposal, can offer him much comfort.

Scotland have played one unofficial and two official Tests in the country – Canada awarded caps, but Scotland did not in 1991 – and have won just one.

Even that win could, and probably should, have gone the other way. Townsend said: “We are aware of the strength of Canada, especially when they play Scotland. It shows how much they put into the game and what a quality side they are at this time of the year when they can call on their big names.

“We have reminded the players of that. This is Test level, and Canada always perform well in this fixture, but it’s really about what we do; what we’ve done in training and how we put that into a performance; and how we ride those moments when Canada do well and when things we have planned don’t work.

“It’s a first game for this team, there are a lot of new caps and a few players who haven’t played for a while. It’s about going out there and seeing what happens.”

Usually when coaches have put themselves in this position of gambling on a radical starting XV, they have given themselves the fallback position of a strong bench who can be relied to change things late in the game if things are not going well.

Not this time. If anything the bench is even weaker: Adam Hastings and Lewis Carmichael on standby to win their first caps and four other players have Test experience measured in minutes. In all, 36 of the 48 caps the bench share belong to just two players, Mark Bennett and Ali Price.

As always when he is being radical, Townsend says he is excited by the prospect rather than daunted by it and it may be a help that some of the novice players he is calling on have already experienced the lows of Test rugby. The likes of Chris Harris and Byron McGuigan have had their baptisms of fire in the Six Nations no-show in Cardiff.

It is clear where he sees the strength of the team, though, and it is a huge tribute to the work Richard Cockerill is doing in Edinburgh, who provide six of the pack and would have made it seven from eight if Stuart McInally, the tour captain had recovered from his tweaked calf muscle in time.

He is expected to be fit for next week, but by then Townsend will be ready for more radical changes, having ended his self-imposed bar on fielding Glasgow Warriors players where there are other options.

His reasoning was that with the Glasgow season ending two weeks later than Edinburgh’s they need more of a rest and more time to integrate into the squad training regime, but the likes of Stuart Hogg and Peter Horne are in line to play in Houston while there were broad hints that Adam Hastings will he handed his first start.

As for this team, the centres both have points to prove. When James Lang was named in the squad, pundits were left scrambling to find out who he was and how the Harlequins player qualifies for Scotland; Chris Harris played his part in the Cardiff nightmare in the Six Nations.

Both are on a mission to convince outsiders that they are the real deal.
Byron McGuighan, the wing who was a hero on his Test debut against Australia was another to get slated for his Cardiff performance, while Blair Kinghorn is getting his first look at Test rugby from his favoured role of full back.

“Blair has had a fantastic season, he played for us on the wing and had a great debut against Ireland, the No.2 team in the world,” Townsend explained.

“He looked very confident and scored a try. We are giving him an opportunity to play 15.

“Stuart [Hogg] will come back into the mix next week. As you can tell, a lot of the Glasgow players are not involved this weekend. We had the Edinburgh players for an extra 10 days training so we felt that was the better preparation.”