NatWest 6 Nations Championship
Townsend turns to experience for Italian job
Gregor Townsend has gone for experience in Scotland’s final NatWest 6 Nations match in Rome
Head coach Gregor Townsend has announced five changes to the Scotland team to start Saturday’s final 2018 NatWest 6 Nations Test against Italy 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 home earlier in the campaign.
Wing Tommy Seymour has recovered from the back injury 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 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 injuries.
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 NatWest 6 Nations Test, while lock Jonny Gray and loosehead prop Gordon Reid also return.
“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,” said Townsend.
“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.”
Scotland: Hogg, Seymour H. Jones, Grigg, Maitland, Russell, Laidlaw, Reid, Brown, Nel, J. Gray, Swinson, Barclay (capt.) Watson, Wilson. Replacements: McInally, Bhatti, Fagerson, R. Gray, Denton, Price, Horne, Kinghorn.