Scotland change three for Italian job
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Head coach Gregor Townsend today named three changes to the starting Scotland team to face Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome this Saturday.
The sides go into the Round Three Six Nations match smarting from opening round defeats – Scotland succumbing to Ireland and England in Dublin and Edinburgh, while Italy’s losses to Wales and France came on the road, meaning this Saturday’s Test is their first of the championship on home soil.
Scotland have won 22 of the 30 Tests between the nations but the odds are more evenly stacked when they meet in Italy, with the contests level on six apiece thanks to a recent run of four consecutive away wins for the Scots.
Scotland’s changes see Edinburgh forwards Stuart McInally (hooker) and Ben Toolis (second row), and Gloucester centre Chris Harris, promoted from the bench for their first start of the 2020 campaign.
McInally swaps places with Glasgow Warriors’ Fraser Brown, who moves to the bench, and Toolis comes in for the injured Jonny Gray (hand), while Harris is picked in favour of Huw Jones, with Sale Sharks wing Byron McGuigan taking his place on the bench.
Reflecting on the team changes, Townsend added: “We believe Chris [Harris] and Stuart [McInally] deserve this opportunity. They were very close to the starting fifteen when we entered this campaign. We think this is the right time for them to come in.
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT 🏴
Scotland team named to face Italy in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations at Stadio Olimpico in Rome this Saturday #AsOne
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 19, 2020
“Chris has been excellent for Gloucester this season and has continued to make improvements since the summer. He works very hard on both sides of the ball, which will be important this week.
“Stuart [McInally] has shown over the past few weeks he’s back to full fitness and is raring to go and Ben gets an opportunity to start following Jonny’s injury against England.
“Second-row is a position we have a lot of competition with a number of very good players available for selection. We’re looking forward to seeing how he combines again with Scott [Cummings] after a successful outing together against Russia in the World Cup.”
Glasgow Warriors pairing Ali Price and Adam Hastings return at halfback for a third Test in a row, with clubmate Sam Johnson retained in midfield to partner Harris.
Edinburgh wing Blair Kinghorn – who scored a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture at Murrayfield last season – is joined once more by Sean Maitland (wing) and captain Stuart Hogg (full-back) in the back field.
Props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland join McInally in the front row, with Scott Cummings reinstated to partner Toolis at lock.
The all-Edinburgh back row of Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury makes up the loose trio once again to complete the pack.
In all the replacements bench features four changes, lock Grant Gilchrist and wing McGuigan taking the places vacated by the promoted Harris and Toolis, while Edinburgh tighthead Willem Nel and recent squad addition Matt Fagerson (back row) replace Simon Berghan and Nick Haining respectively.
Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham returned to training last week but has not yet recovered sufficiently from his knee injury to be considered for this Test match.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Byron McGuigan.
Date: Saturday, February 22
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 15.15 (14.15 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)