THERE was a time when a Scotland team composed solely of home-based players would have been noticeably understrength in many areas of the side. Not any more.

True, there are some conspicuous absentees from the starting line-up selected by Gregor Townsend to face Australia tomorrow, but around two-thirds of that 15 can be regarded as first choices and not one will be making his Test debut. When it comes to the bench, only one man is set to play his first game for Scotland – and the one in question, former Australia forward Jack Dempsey, can hardly be considered inexperienced.

The fact that this game is taking place outside of the recognised Test window is the reason why Townsend has only been able to choose from Glasgow and Edinburgh players, meaning regulars such as Exeter duo Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray plus Gloucester’s Chris Harris will have to wait until next week’s match against Fiji for their chance. Racing 92 stand-off Finn Russell, of course, has been left out of the squad for the Autumn Nations Series, and appears unlikely to return any time soon, despite Townsend’s protestations yesterday that the door is always open.

Ollie Smith of Glasgow wins his second cap at full-back in place of Hogg, Sam Skinner and Grant Gilchrist are the second-row partners instead of Gray and the injured Warriors lock Scott Cummings, and the in-form Mark Bennett deputises for Harris at outside centre. The principal focus of attention, however, will be stand-off Blair Kinghorn, who although still widely seen as a second-choice No.10 behind Russell will be making his fifth consecutive Test start.

With four internationals in as many weekends, it would be a surprise if Kinghorn were to start all of them, especially with Adam Hastings being available from next week. For the time being at least, however, Townsend appears very happy with the work that the Edinburgh playmaker is doing for both club and country.

“Blair can put down a good marker and make it hard for Adam to start next week by the way he plays,” the coach said. “I would imagine there will be changes to our team next week – we have a number of players who have been starters for us before who play in England that would be available – but this team does have a huge opportunity to play well and make that selection even tougher, or we go with more continuity next week. If this team were to go out and play well against Australia then we would

want them to get more game time throughout this championship.

“Blair was a starter in the summer, he was the starter against Ireland, so he’s started the last four games, so the way he’s playing he’s in the driving seat. But Adam’s form has been very good, so that’s a real positive. He’s got another big game on Friday night against Exeter. I think his game management, his physical attributes and his confidence – which is important – are real positive signs.”

When it comes to the bench, Dempsey is the big talking point. The Warriors player clearly has the ability to play at this level, but Townsend decided it was best not to select him to start, opting instead for a back row of captain Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson.

“His form this season and last has shown he can be in our 23, but that back row has played a number of games for us and Matt, who plays alongside Jack at Glasgow, has been outstanding for the last 24 months,” Townsend explained. “Hamish and Jamie have been leading players for us too.

“Jack has trained well. There is a lot of information to take on board when you’re new to a team. He was in South Africa with Glasgow last week so he has had a lot to take in.

“He has adapted well. We believe he has a game that can thrive for us. He has already proved he has a game that thrived at international level. He’s played very well for Glasgow and we just want to see his strengths when he comes on.

“He’s a good defender who plays with real aggression. Everything is done at pace, whether it’s running hard on to ball or hitting people hard. And he knows Test rugby too and the physical step-up from playing for Glasgow. We’re delighted with what he can bring on both sides of the ball.”

Scotland (v Australia at Murrayfield, tomorrow [Sat] 5.30pm): O Smith; D Graham, M Bennett, S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; B Kinghorn, A Price; P Schoeman, D Cherry, Z Fagerson, S Skinner, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, M Fagerson. Substitutes: G Turner, J Bhatti, W Nel, G Young, J Dempsey, G Horne, R Thompson, D Hoyland.