Scotland change four for Ireland showdown
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Scotland have made four changes to the starting line-up for this Saturday’s second-round Six Nations clash with Ireland at Murrayfield Stadium.
Head coach Gregor Townsend has welcomed the added experience of last year’s top try-scoring Saracens wing, Sean Maitland, who has recovered from a hamstring injury to start in place of last weekend’s hat-trick try-scorer Blair Kinghorn, who moves to the bench.
Maitland will form a familiar back three with fellow British & Irish Lions Tommy Seymour and fullback Stuart Hogg, who will bring a combined 150 caps and 49 tries into their 18th Scotland Test start as a trio this Saturday.
The remaining changes come in the pack, where prop Simon Berghan and loose forward Josh Strauss start in place of injured forwards Willem Nel (calf) and Sam Skinner (ankle), while Jonny Gray’s recovery from a shoulder injury sees him replace second row Ben Toolis, who moves to the bench.
BREAKING | Scotland make four changes for this Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Ireland @BTMurrayfield.
🔄 Berghan and Strauss replace injured Nel and Skinner, Gray & Maitland return from injury for Toolis and Kinghorn who move to the bench.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 7, 2019
The bench sees four further changes, where uncapped prop D’arcy Rae takes the replacement spot vacated by Berghan, experienced Glasgow Warriors pair Fraser Brown (hooker) and Pete Horne (centre) return from injury to feature for the first time in the campaign, and fellow Warrior Rob Harley is drafted in from outwith the wider squad into the match-day 23.
Townsend said: “We picked up two injuries from last week with WP (Nel) and Sam (Skinner) missing out, which is disappointing for us and them, but have had a boost with a number of proven Test players returning from injury and available to us this week.
“To have that calibre of player and experience around the group in the build-up this week, and during a game of such magnitude, is very important.”
Glasgow Warriors centre Sam Johnson [right] has been handed the chance to build on an impressive debut against Italy alongside fellow Warrior Huw Jones, while influential halfbacks Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell also return.
The reselection of Allan Dell and Stuart McInally alongside Berghan means an all-Edinburgh front row will take to the field once more, in spite of Nel’s absence.
Behind them in the scrum Grant Gilchrist starts alongside Gray, while Ryan Wilson and Jamie Ritchie join Strauss in the back row.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Test, Townsend added: “It’s massive. It’s probably the biggest challenge we’ll face in the Six Nations, given the way Ireland have been playing in the last few years – they are Grand Slam Champions and the number-two team in the world.
“They’re very well coached, have some outstanding players and will test us in a number of areas – defensively, set-piece, attack and kicking game. It is a challenge that brings an extra edge and focus to training and something our players relish taking on.
“Our players have risen to the challenge of playing New Zealand, England and other world-class teams and they are aware that we must rise once more to produce one of our best-ever performances for 80 minutes.”
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Rob Harley, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
Date: Saturday, February 9
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.15 (14.15 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
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