Scotland make five changes for Italy

Date published: March 14 2018

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made five changes to his starting line-up to take on Italy in Saturday’s Six Nations Test in Rome.

The changes mean the most experienced squad to be named in the tenure of the current coaching group will travel to the Italian capital seeking to secure a third championship win from five rounds, having defeated France and England at Murrayfield earlier in the campaign.

Wing Tommy Seymour has recovered from the back injury (sustained against England) that ruled him out of last weekend’s loss against Ireland, to replace Blair Kinghorn (who returns to the bench) and reinstate the back-three with Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland.

Glasgow Warriors centre Nick Grigg also comes into the backline for his first Six Nations start, alongside club-mate Huw Jones, in place of Pete Horne who also joins the replacements.

Townsend has made three further changes to the pack, with hooker Fraser Brown, prop WP Nel and lock Tim Swinson all promoted from the bench in place of Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan and Grant Gilchrist.

McInally is retained in the matchday 23 with a place on the bench, while new squad additions Richie Gray and Zander Fagerson backfill for promoted pair Swinson and Nel to feature for the first time in the campaign, having recovered from their respective calf and foot ailments.

Townsend said: “We’ve had a deeper look at the Ireland game, where we performed well in areas that will have to be better this weekend.

“There were a number of positives in how we took the game to Ireland in attack and defence but this didn’t lead to us scoring enough points to win the game.

“We’ve been pleased with how the players have responded to last week’s disappointment, with the energy they have brought to training and a determination to improve our performance in our final match in this year’s Six Nations.

“Playing Italy will be a very tough game – it always has been for any Scotland side. We are ready for the challenge and have an experienced group of players working hard to finish our campaign with a positive performance and result.”

The starting line-up is completed by the half-back partnership of Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell, and the back-row unit of captain John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson, for a fourth successive Six Nations Test, while lock Jonny Gray and loosehead prop Gordon Reid also return, as two of seven players to start every Test this campaign (Hogg, Jones, Russell, Barclay and Watson the other five).

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Nick Grigg, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 WP Nel, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Richie Gray, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Blair Kinghorn

Date: Saturday, March 17
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 13:30 local (12:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)


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