Hogg headlines Scottish changes
Wed, 29 Jan 2014 12:15
We can go the length with that back three
Scotland made four changes to their starting XV and a positional switch in their team to open the 2014 Six Nations championship away to Ireland on Sunday.
British & Irish Lion Stuart Hogg returns at fullback, having missed the year-end Tests through injury.
Other alterations from the team that lined-up against Australia see Alex Dunbar preferred to Nick De Luca in the centre; Tim Swinson win the nod over Grant Gilchrist in the second row; and a fourth Glasgow Warrior, Ryan Wilson, chosen at blindside flank instead of Johnnie Beattie.
For Dunbar, Swinson and Wilson it is their first Six Nations start and the same goes for Duncan Taylor at inside centre.
Sean Maitland, who scored on his first outing in the championship in the opening game last season, moves to the wing to accommodate Hogg in the No.15 jersey.
Scotland will be captained by Kelly Brown, who will be winning his 61st cap, thus equalling Doddie Weir's record as the most-capped product of the Melrose club.
Head coach Scott Johnson acknowledged that it had been a tough selection.
"The forwards especially were a hard pick, but we're happy," Johnson said.
"We believe we've got a good combination to go in against formidable opposition."
Johnson reflected that Scotland's back row selection increased their line-out options and hailed the inclusion of 24-year-old Wilson, for the additional athleticism he can bring.
In the engine-room, the head coach is savouring the chance to reunite Swinson with Jim Hamilton.
The pair made a considerable impact in Scotland's Test against South Africa in Nelspruit last year and injury to Swinson deprived them of rekindling that partnership in November.
In the backs Johnson looks forward to his back three making their mark.
"We can go the length with that back three. For a seasoned campaigner Sean Lamont has some leg still. His form over the last 24 months for us has been outstanding, especially his work off the ball. Like something in my wine cabinet he's certainly getting better with age."
Johnson is acutely aware that Scotland have not won their first game in the championship since France were defeated at Murrayfield in 2006 and believes this selection can end that sequence.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 David Denton, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Johnnie Beattie, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Matt Scott, 23 Max Evans.
Date: Sunday, February 2
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
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