Inspirational vice-captain Greig Laidlaw keeps his place in the Scotland rugby squad as Borders pair Darcy Graham and Jamie Bhatti return – while it’s Stuart Hogg’s turn this time to watch from the sidelines.
Head coach Gregor Townsend hgas reshuffled the Borders contingent once again for the third of Scotland’s four Summer Tests and World Cup warm-up matches, which takes place this Saturday in Georgia.
Following the Scots’ much-desired 17-14 win over France in Edinburgh last week, the next game takes them to the Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi, with a kick-off time of 5pm BST, 8pm local time, live on Premier Sports.
Scotland will be the first Tier One national side to travel for a Test match on Georgian soil, which doubles as the last opportunity for players to stake their claim for the final 31-man group for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, due to be announced by Townsend in a public event at Linlithgow Palace on Tuesday (September 3).
Townsend, himself a former Borders star player with Gala, has kept faith with Jedburgh’s own Greig Laidlaw, who was a model of calmness and assurance as he kicked a penalty and two conversions in Saturday’s win at BT Murrayfield.
Townsend has put ex-Hawick star Hogg back on the shelf, as one of 10 changes to the side which defeated France, but has recalled former Mansfield Park player Darcy Graham, in place of the injured Tommy Seymour, while former Melrose prop Jamie Bhatti is on the bench.
Also returning to the side is Sam Johnson, who made a significant impact in the Six Nations tournament, while Rory Hutchison starts his first Test match for his country. A number of other players will also have the opportunity to build on Saturday’s performance.
“There were improvements in our back-to-back games against France, in particular in defence, game management and at scrum, as well some elements of our attack,” said Townsend.
“All of these will be put to the test against a very good Georgian side, who we expect to be extremely motivated by their passionate home support.
“We’re expecting a very physical and confrontational encounter, which will be a great test for our squad. In order to rise to this challenge, we must take the game to our hosts right from the start, playing with relentless effort and accuracy.”
Scotland team – 15 Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), 14 Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), 13 Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints), 12 Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) , 11 Sean Maitland (Saracens), 10 Finn Russell (Racing 92), 9 Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne). 1 Allan Dell (London Irish), 2 Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), 3 Willem Nel (Edinburgh), 4 Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), 5 Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), 6 John Barclay (Edinburgh), 7 Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), 8 Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors). Substitutes: 16 Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors), 17 Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh), 18 Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), 19 Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), 20 Josh Strauss (Blue Bulls), 21 Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), 22 Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), 23 Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors).