Jones gets Scotland start

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 13:10
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TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has included Stormers centre Huw Jones to start Scotland's opening Six Nations match against Ireland on February 4 at BT Murrayfield.

Jones is back in the starting line-up in place of Mark Bennett, having recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out of the team's third and final November test match against Georgia.

Jones hit the headlines when he became the first Scot to score a brace against Australia in his first start for Scotland before being injured in the act of creating a try for Sean Maitland against Argentina a week later.

Jones will reform the midfield partnership he forged in those two tests with Alex Dunbar in between returning halfback-pairing Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell, and the back-three trio of Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour, who contributed half of Scotland's 10-try tally in the autumn.

The remaining two changes are in the pack which sees Glasgow Warriors hooker Fraser Brown promoted from the bench in place of cap centurion Ross Ford and back row Josh Strauss replace clubmate Rob Harley.

Strauss' inclusion at No.8 sees Ryan Wilson make a positional switch to the blindside of the back row, with Hamish Watson holding down the openside role he occupied throughout the autumn.

Second row brothers Jonny and Richie Gray return to the boiler house with young props Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson packing down either side of Brown in the front row.

Scotland head coach, Vern Cotter, said: "Although it's a reasonably settled squad, it's nice to have an uncapped player and some reasonably new players in the team, who bring their enthusiasm along with the others.

"We've been growing our depth and our versatility within that, so we have a number of different options that allow us to continually attack the opposition, which is our main focus,"

He added: "Facing Ireland first up doesn't get much harder.

"They are at the top of their game and will come here with confidence after beating some of the best teams in the world, including the All Blacks and Wallabies and having won the tournament twice in the past three years,"

There are four further changes to the bench, with Edinburgh Rugby tighthead Simon Berghan in line for a test debut if called upon from the replacements.

Elsewhere Tim Swinson, Duncan Weir and Bennett occupy the remaining back replacement spots in place of Grant Gilchrist and injured Warriors pair Pete Horne and Rory Hughes.

"We aim to win every game we play but know that Ireland will come here with a lot of confidence and try to dominate us on our home paddock,” added Cotter.

"Those are the challenges of the sport at a high level but we'll embrace that and put everything we have into getting the right performance and result this Saturday,"

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 John Barclay, 21 Ali Price, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett.  

Date: Saturday, February 4
Venue:  BT Murrayfield Stadium, Scotland
Kick-off: 14.25 (14.25 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

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Fri, 26 May 2017
Reds v Force 26 | 40
Blues v Chiefs 16 | 16
Sun, 21 May 2017
Waratahs v Rebels 50 | 23
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Munster v Ospreys 23 | 3
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