Hogg set for historic half-century
Full-back Stuart Hogg is due to become the youngest player in history to reach a half-century of Scotland caps, in a side featuring one change to face France in Paris on Sunday in the RBS 6 Nations.
If all goes well, Hawick-born Hogg, at 24 years and 233 days come kick-off, will overtake previous record-holder Richie Gray, who was 26 when he made his 50th appearance during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The match kicks off at 3pm GMT and is live on BBC Television.
Ex-Mansfield Park player Hogg will be the 40th Scotland player in history to reach the landmark and the seventh youngest player in world rugby history to mark a half-century of test appearances.
The 2013 British & Irish Lion and 2016 RBS 6 Nations Player of the Championship moved into joint fourth (with Iwan Tukalo) on Scotland’s all-time try-scoring charts (15) when he registered a brace against Ireland in the national team’s opening round 27-22 win at BT Murrayfield.
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter said: “Congratulations to Hoggy on what will be a special milestone. It’s a fantastic personal achievement, especially at such a young age, which is a good indication of how talented an individual he is and how important he’s been to Scotland teams over the past five years.
“He’s a very exciting player and, at just 24, he has a huge amount to offer Scotland for many more years to come.”
Back-row John Barclay is the only change to the starting Scotland side as a straight replacement for Ryan Wilson, who has failed to recover sufficiently from an elbow infection.
Edinburgh Rugby’s John Hardie – who was due to start against Ulster in the Guinness PRO12 tonight (Friday) – is named in the vacated place on the bench.
The rest of the side is unchanged, with man-of-the-match against Ireland, Hogg, returning to marshal the back-field alongside familiar wing-men Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour.
Try-scorer Alex Dunbar, a former Selkirk player, pairs up with Huw Jones in midfield, with half-backs Finn Russell and captain Greig Laidlaw also starting.
Cotter has also shown faith in his starting pack, with hooker Fraser Brown – replaced in the 25th minute with an eye injury by Kelso Lad Rob Ford – returning to start once again.
The replacements are otherwise unchanged, meaning Edinburgh Rugby prop Simon Berghan is primed to make his debut if called upon from the bench.
Cotter added: “France in Paris is a monumental challenge. They have improved markedly since (head coach) Guy Noves took charge and will be smarting since their narrow defeat to England at Twickenham last weekend.
“We’re their next opportunity to get their campaign up and running and they’ll be intent on throwing every part of their considerable firepower at us on Sunday.
“We’ll have to match their ferocity while ensuring we take that – and all the other battles we can expect in this game – on our terms, whether that’s in collisions, in set-piece, at the breakdown or in the air.
“This will be an excellent test for this group of players: mentally, physically, tactically and of our skillsets under pressure. We will need to be at our relentless best once again.”