Jaco van der Walt handed Scotland debut

Date published: December 3 2020

Edinburgh fly-half Jaco van der Walt will make his Scotland debut as one of six changes to the starting team to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

Captain Stuart Hogg is in line to win his 80th Scotland cap, moving him into seventh position on the list of Scotland male internationalists immediately behind Gregor Townsend in sixth on 82 appearances.

Duncan Taylor has been selected at inside centre and the Saracen will make his first Scotland start since the defeat of Russia at Rugby World Cup 2019 in the Autumn Nations Cup tie.

Taylor partners Chris Harris in the centres, who along with Glasgow Warriors’ scrum-half Ali Price and lock Scott Cummings, is one of three Scotland players to have started every match in the 2020 end-of-year campaign.

Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham returns to the side and lines up with fellow Edinburgh flyer Duhan van der Merwe to complete the backline with full-back Hogg.

Pack retained

The core of the pack who faced France in the previous ANC round are retained with Fraser Brown at hooker, lock pairing Cummings and Jonny Gray and number eight Matt Fagerson all in the starting line-up.

Edinburgh loosehead prop Rory Sutherland returns to front-row duties, packing down with tighthead Zander Fagerson alongside Brown.

The back-row sees a positional change and a new combination with Edinburgh flanker Jamie Ritchie moving to the openside and Scarlets’ Blade Thomson on the blindside.

Glasgow back Huw Jones and London Irish flanker Blair Cowan are set to make their first appearances of the campaign from the bench.

Winger Sean Maitland will win his 50th cap should he be called upon to feature.

Three new front-row replacements are named from the France fixture with Glasgow Warrior Oli Kebble joining up with Edinburgh pair hooker Stuart McInally and tighthead WP Nel.

Exeter players Sam Skinner and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne complete the matchday 23.

Head coach Townsend said: “We’ve been together for the past two months and from a coaching perspective it has been a real joy seeing the group come together and work so hard to improve both individually and collectively. We are looking forward to facing Ireland in what will be an opportunity to continue our progress away from home once again.

“We have been impressed with Jaco over the time he has trained with us and we’re excited to see him take the next step into international rugby. It will be a tough challenge over in Ireland, given the quality of our opposition and how they will be looking to end 2020 on a positive note.

“Being able to bring back Rory Sutherland after his recent injury is a real boost, and it’s great to involve Blair and Huw for the first time this season. If they get on the field, 39 players will have had opportunities to play over the past five games, which underlines the current player depth throughout Scottish rugby and shows the competition there is for places now in this Scotland team.”

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (c), 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Sean Maitland

Date: Saturday, December 5
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Kick off: 14:15 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Dan Jones (Wales)