Scotland make three changes

Date published: March 17 2016

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Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has made three alterations to his starting line-up for Saturday's Six Nations clash with Ireland in Dublin.

Glasgow Warriors fly-half Duncan Weir has been handed his first start of the championship in place of club mate Finn Russell, who has been ruled out of the fixture with concussion, despite his continued progression through the graduated return-to-play protocol.

Weir was absent from the Scotland squads that defeated Italy and France and last started for Scotland against South Africa in the Rugby World Cup, where a scintillating break from his own half led to a Tommy Seymour try.

This willingness to take on the gain line has been an increasingly prominent feature of his game since the global showcase, with his selection a reward for impressive form in the PRO12, where he earned back-to-back, man-of-the-match awards in the Warriors’ wins over Dragons and Cardiff.

Weir will partner captain and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, who will surpass the record held by former internationalist David Sole (25) as the most appearances as Scotland skipper.

The remaining changes appear in the pack, with lock Tim Swinson – who has made four replacement appearances in this year’s tournament – set for his first start alongside Richie Gray, in place of the injured Jonny Gray (pectoral tear).

Ryan Wilson starts at number eight in place of Josh Strauss – who moves to the bench – reverting to the back-row combination that started Scotland’s win over Italy in Rome, alongside flankers John Hardie and John Barclay, the latter set to make a half century of appearances for his country.

Scotland Head Coach, Vern Cotter, said: “We were pleased with our sustained effort against France.

“I was happy with the way we adapted to losing Finn [Russell] so early in the game. The team came together and was rewarded for their endeavour with the end result.

"The challenge for us now is to keep constructing our game and enjoy the last coming together of the championship in a Scotland jersey, against an Ireland team full of confidence after a convincing win over Italy. "

The pack is completed by the return of ever-present front-row trio Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and Willem Nel, who start their fifth consecutive match of the championship.

In the backs, centres Alex Dunbar and Duncan Taylor return to midfield while the back-three of Seymour, Tim Visser, and Stuart Hogg return for a third time in a row.

Cotter has made two further changes to the replacements, with Rob Harley coming on to the bench place vacated by the promoted Swinson, while Henry Pyrgos has been named as replacement scrum-half for what could be his first Scotland appearance since his post Rugby World Cup wrist surgery.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Moray Low, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Sean Lamont

Date: Saturday, March 19
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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