Scotland coach tweaks formula for Wales
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Head coach Gregor Townsend named three changes to the starting Scotland team for this Saturday’s Six Nations finale against Wales in Cardiff.
All three adjustments are made to the forward pack from the one that beat France last weekend, where hooker and vice-captain Stuart McInally, No.8 Magnus Bradbury (both Edinburgh), and lock Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) come in – the latter starting for the first time this campaign.
Glasgow Warriors pair Fraser Brown (hooker) and Scott Cummings (lock) move to the bench as a consequence, with fellow Warrior Matt Fagerson coming into the matchday squad to take the place among the replacements vacated by the promoted Bradbury, with Nick Haining unavailable through illness.
The rest of the pack is unchanged, meaning props Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh) and Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), and flanks Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson (both Edinburgh) are among the ten players to start every Test this campaign.
The entire back division earns selection for a third Test in a row, with halfbacks Ali Price and Adam Hastings, centre Sam Johnson (all Glasgow Warriors) and the back-three of fullback Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) and Sean Maitland (Saracens) – now ninth in Scotland’s all-time top try-scorers after a brace against France – making up the balance of the ever-present ten, with Gloucester’s Chris Harris back to partner Johnson in midfield.
Saturday will also see captain Hogg move into joint seventh place on Scotland’s all-time appearance list, overtaking recently retired former skippers Greig Laidlaw and John Barclay to join Jason White and Nathan Hines on 77 caps.
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Townsend, said: “We set out this season to improve our consistency over a run of five tough games, something we have done well so far.
“We’ve stayed in the fight in every game, which is a credit to how hard the players have worked in training and during the Tests.
“It’s also been encouraging to see how well the players have grown together and have taken on board the input from new coaches, Steve [Tandy] and Pieter [de Villiers], who have done a great job in their first season with the team.
He added: “We have huge respect for the Welsh team, who narrowly missed out on a World Cup Final a few months ago. They are well-coached and have some outstanding players.
“It will be a fantastic occasion and one last opportunity to play to our potential in this championship.”
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 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 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 George Horne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Kyle Steyn.
Date: Saturday, March 14
Venue: Principality Stadium Cardiff
Kick-off: 14.15 (14.15 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT 🏴
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 12, 2020