Scotland to unleash Nel against Ireland
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made four changes to his starting line-up to face Ireland in their Six Nations clash at Murrayfield on Sunday.
In the pack, prop Willem Nel comes in at tighthead and packs down alongside hooker George Turner and loosehead Rory Sutherland.
Jamie Ritchie returns at blindside flank and complements Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson in the loose forwards, while Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings continue their second-row partnership for the seventh successive international.
Captain Stuart Hogg and wings Duhan van der Merwe and the returning Sean Maitland form the back three, with Sam Johnson featuring for the first time in the 2021 championship, joining Chris Harris in the centres. Finn Russell and Ali Price continue the halfback partnership for a third straight game.
Simon Berghan and Jamie Bhatti are named in the replacements alongside lock Grant Gilchrist and loose forward Nick Haining, with all four primed for their first involvement of the year, alongside hooker David Cherry.
Scott Steele, Huw Jones and Darcy Graham represent options in the backs from the bench.
Ahead of the game, Townsend said: “We are well aware of the threats posed by an experienced Ireland squad and our players have prepared for a contest they know is going to require one of their best performances.
“We had prepared well for our postponed game against France, and the players have adapted well to the change of plans and have brought real energy and focus to our training sessions this week.
“Playing Ireland is always a physical affair and one that demands you keep stepping up to make tackles or contest for possession. They have played well in their opening three games of the Championship and have some outstanding players in their squad. It should be a cracking game.”
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Willem Nel, 2 George Turner, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Nick Haining, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Darcy Graham.
Date: Sunday, March 14
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Alex Ruiz (France)