Scotland have made three changes in their starting team for their 11th and final international of the season against Italy in Pretoria on Saturday. It’s been a mixed season with some relative highs (Ireland, last weekend, scoring tries against the All Blacks) and some lows (Tonga, Wales) and the players will soon head off for a well-earned rest. Or pre-season, for those of them who weren’t quite expecting to be on tour (Fraser Brown).
We have blooded some new caps, showed far more enterprise with ball in hand (well, most of the time) and created the odd Lion. We’ve also often lost the steely spine that epitomises the best Scotland teams.
Anyway, to Loftus Versfeld and the test against Italy on Saturday.
In the backs neither Pete Horne nor Ruaridh Jackson has recovered sufficiently from the injuries sustained against South Africa in Nelspruit last weekend, therefore Tom Heathcote will win his third cap at stand-off having himself recovered from the concussion of a week before. Confused? He may very well be.
In the pack Alastair Kellock returns to win his 55th cap in the second-row for Jim Hamilton, who has returned home for the birth of his second child (congrats Jim). David Denton replaces the injured Ryan Wilson in the back-row after an impressive ball-carrying display off the bench last weekend.
On the bench Grant Gilchrist, Rob Harley and Tim Visser are introduced, with Visser in particular a mystery absentee last week and will be keen to remind us (and Warren Gatland perhaps) what was missing. He’ll also want to get used to playing outside the Scott/Dunbar centre pairing, as that had the look of something decent that could last a fair while…
Scotland head coach Scott Johnson said: “This is the end of a long season for both the northern hemisphere teams in this tournament and, as I’ve said, before we want no rocks under our beach towels after Saturday’s game.
“I was encouraged by our performance against South Africa last week but having set that standard we have to ensure that we build upwards from it against Italy.
“When we gathered in camp in Perthshire last month I said that this tour would be about broadening our base and that we’d find out about whether certain players were ready to play international rugby.
“That has happened and we’ll take a lot from that but we also want to end the tournament on a high against an Italian team that we know well and that we respect greatly.”
Scotland defeated Italy 34-10 at Murrayfield in February and the RBS man of the match that day, Greig Laidlaw, will captain Scotland for a second time on Saturday.
Scotland team to play Italy at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria on Saturday 22 June, kick-off 2.15pm local time (1.15pm BST):
Peter Murchie; Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Sean Lamont; Tom Heathcote, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Alasdair Dickinson, Scott Lawson, Euan Murray, Tim Swinson, Alastair Kellock, Alasdair Strokosch, Dave Denton, Johnnie Beattie
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Moray Low, Jon Welsh, Grant Gilchrist, Rob Harley, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Taylor, Tim Visser.