TOKYO, 20 Sep - Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend believes the experience his side can call on "is a real bonus" as they bid to launch their Rugby World Cup campaign with victory over Ireland on Sunday.
The Scots' starting XV at International Stadium Yokohama will boast 630 caps, with a further 151 on the bench.
While Stuart McInally will lead the side, vice-captains John Barclay and Greig Laidlaw have also led their country regularly – Laidlaw a record 39 times – while Stuart Hogg, Grant Gilchrist and Ryan Wilson have also performed the role.
Aside from second-row Sam Skinner, whose knee injury in a warm-up test against France cost him a place in the final squad, Townsend has the strongest personnel at his disposal since he took over in 2017.
Flanker Jamie Ritchie is still recovering from a broken cheekbone, and full-back Blair Kinghorn was also unavailable for selection after suffering a recurrence of symptoms following a head injury sustained in the final warm-up match against Georgia.
But Townsend believes the rest of his squad are in the "best physical condition possible" as they begin their Pool A fixtures.
"I have seen the way they have trained and acted over the last few days," he said.
"We have had two of our best ever training sessions, so as a coach, you get excited about things like that. I also see the experience we have in our squad this weekend and that counts for a lot in big games.
"This will be the first time that this team have all been fit and available. We are missing two or three players but to get a squad that has this experience for such a big game is a real bonus.
"Experience is important. Experience with form - recent form - and really good physical shape makes it even more valuable, and that is what we have with this group this weekend."
Townsend has opted for Wilson, who has 45 caps and led the side in their most recent outing against Georgia, at number eight over Blade Thomson, the New Zealand-born forward who won his first two caps in the warm-up tests.
While Ireland boast 679 caps in their starting line-up, and 796 across their match-day 23 compared to Scotland’s 781, they will be denied another 170 caps' worth of experience on Sunday due to injuries for Rob Kearney and Keith Earls.
Townsend believes the absence of Kearney at full-back "will be a disappointment for Ireland, potentially" but warned that his replacement, Jordan Larmour, should not be underestimated.
"We have to be aware of who he is as a player, his strengths, and the areas where we can put him under pressure," added the former Scotland fly-half.
"He is an excellent player and if you give him space, he will exploit that.
"We know Rob Kearney is a key player for them. He is a brilliant player who has played very well against Scotland in recent games. I thought he was in very good shape against Wales.
"But Jordan Larmour is a very exciting talent, he works hard, and anyone who plays in that Ireland team knows their role and what they need to do."