Scotland change eleven for Italy

Date published: August 20 2015

Head coach Vern Cotter has rung the changes to the Scotland team named to start against Italy in this Saturday's Test match at the Stadio Olimpico.

In all there are 11 new faces taking the field in Turin, with the seven inbound forwards making up an almost entirely new pack, four new backs, and three starting debuts for John Hardie (back-row), Rory Hughes (wing) and Stuart McInally (hooker).

McInally will rubber stamp his positional switch to hooker when he surpasses his unused replacement appearance as a flanker against South Africa (2012), with a first cap for his country in the front-row. 

He will pack down between props Gordon Reid and Mike Cusack – the latter set for his first start after his debut as a replacement against Ireland last week – while British and Irish Lions lock Richie Gray comes in to partner captain Grant Gilchrist – the only returning forward – in the second-row.

An all-new back row completes the forwards as debutant Hardie starts at open-side with Alasdair Strokosch and Adam Ashe at blind-side and number eight respectively. 

In the backs Glasgow Warriors' 22-year-old wing Hughes is set to make his first outing for his country in place of Tim Visser, with the returning Sean Lamont (wing) and the versatile Greig Tonks – who started the Ireland Test at fly-half – making up the back-three at full-back.

A new half-back pairing sees scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne make his first start for his country alongside fly-half Duncan Weir; the hero of Scotland's last trip to Italy when he slotted the match-winning drop-goal in 2014.

The backs are completed by the final change, which sees centre Matt Scott start at inside centre alongside the returning Richie Vernon.

On the bench, Edinburgh's uncapped pair Willem Nel (prop) and Damien Hoyland (wing) are poised for an international debut as replacements, while their club mates Alasdair Dickinson (prop) and Hamish Watson (back-row) could make their first appearances in August.

Cotter said: "This is another chance to give opportunities to players and allow us to have a good look at our squad, be it those who haven't played or are playing in different positions.

"The Irish game was an open, fairly fluid affair for the most part but I think the Italy game will be a tighter battle so we'll be looking, perhaps, to play a bit differently.

"A lot of players put their hands up last week and we're expecting the same of this group.”

Scotland's last outing against the Italians was the last-minute loss in February at Murrayfield, where a converted penalty try sealed the win for the visitors.

However, despite this being fresh in the mind going into the game, Cotter said that Saturday's Test is far from being a revenge mission.

He added: "We know that they put pressure on our tight five, so that unit will be aware that a lot of heat will come their way from scrum and driven lineouts.

"Our whole focus this summer has been on improving. We're trying to build and construct our rugby and that isn't based on any emotions other than our desire to move forward.”

Scotland: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 John Hardie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Grant Gilchrist (c), 4 Richie Gray, 3 Mike Cusack, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Henry Prygos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Damien Hoyland

Date: Saturday, August 15
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Turin
Kick-off: 20:00 local (19:00 BST, 18:00 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)