Borders three named in Scots' starting line-up
Borders stars Stuart Hogg and Greig Laidlaw have retained their places in Scotland's starting XV for Saturday's concluding NatWest 6 Nations test in Italy, while Jamie Bhatti is on the bench.
Head coach Gregor Townsend has announced five changes to the team to begin the match in Rome, which kicks off at 12.30pm and can be seen live on ITV.
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 BT 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 (Scotland’s tryscorer in Dublin who returns to the bench) and reinstate the back three with ex-Hawick’s 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 former Howe of Fife player Pete Horne, who also joins the replacements.
Townsend has made three further changes to the pack, with hooker Fraser Brown, prop Willem 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 match-day 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 NatWest 6 Nations.”
He added: “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 Jedburgh-linked Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell, and the back-row unit of captain John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson, for a fourth successive NatWest 6 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 team to play Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Nick Grigg, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (vice-captain), 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Fraser Brown, 3 Willem Nel, 4 Tim Swinson, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 John Barclay (captain), 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Ryan Wilson (vice-captain). Substitutes: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Richie Gray, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Blair Kinghorn.