Scotland will field three new caps in their team for Saturday’s international against Samoa in Durban.
They are 24-year-old Edinburgh Rugby full-back Greig Tonks and the Glasgow Warriors duo, centre Alex Dunbar, 23 and hooker Pat MacArthur, 26.
In addition there are a further three uncapped players on the bench, Stevie Lawrie, Peter Horne and Duncan Taylor, while two players in the starting line-up have won a solitary cap each, Bath’s Tom Heathcote at stand-off and Grant Gilchrist at lock.
There are eight survivors from the starting line-up that defeated Samoa in the sweltering heat of Apia last June.
With the three potentially World Class Scots (Hogg, Maitland and Gray) away with the Lions, Johnson clearly sees this tour as a chance to look over a few of those who have performed well at club level but been held back by bigger names at International level. Some of them *cough* hooker *cough* might even benefit from a shakeup of incumbent, although Scott Lawson is also on tour as cover for the injured Ross Ford.
Speaking to ScottishRugby.org he said, “We have 25 Test matches available to us prior to the World Cup. I’ve said regularly that we’re not going to give Test jerseys away but we cannot be exposed to injury issues (in 2015) and the best way to prevent that is to give players opportunities.”
It has also been announced that Sky Sports will show all three of Scotland’s summer tour games in this tournament without a proper name (the locals call it the Castle Lager Incoming Series!).
Scotland’s opening game – against Samoa in Durban on Saturday (8 June) – will be broadcast on Sky Sports 2 from 1.10pm UK time and will follow on from coverage of the Queensland Reds v British & Irish Lions.
The next Test – against South Africa in Nelspruit on Saturday 15 June – will be shown on Sky Sports 3 with a 4pm start UK time for the programme.
The final match, on Saturday 22 June (opposition and kick-off time to be determined from the results in the preceding fortnight) at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria will also be shown live on the Sky Sports network.
It is an exciting team for sure with a number of players looking to show Warren Gatland he has missed a trick, in particular Tim Visser, Kelly Brown and Ryan Grant who were most likely the next in line in a couple of positions. It also gives fan favourites like Greig Tonks or Pat MacArthur a chance to step out of the shadows of Hogg and Ford and show what they can do in a Scotland shirt.
We’ll also be keen to see Matt Scott and Tim Visser going fast on a firm pitch, and finally get a good look at Tom Heathcote in decent conditions.
In the African heat and with three physical teams in the competition, it will be tough but Scotland should be aiming to finish second in this tournament and face South Africa in the final game.
We hope the new coach will be watching too…
UPDATED: in light of Ryan Grant’s call up to the Lions…
Scotland team to play Samoa in the Castle Lager Test Series at King’s Park, Durban on Saturday 8 June, kick-off 2.15pm local time (1.15pm BST):
Greig Tonks (Edinburgh), Sean Lamont (Glasgow), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Tim Visser (Edinburgh), Tom Heathcote (Bath), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh), Alasdair Dickinson (Sale), Pat MacArthur (Glasgow), Euan Murray (Worcester), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Kelly Brown (Saracens, captain), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier)
Replacements: Stevie Lawrie (Edinburgh), Moray Low (Glasgow), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow), Peter Horne (Glasgow), Duncan Taylor (Saracens).
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker and Sindile Mayende (both South Africa)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)