Scotland head coach Vern Cotter named his 23-man squad for the Georgia game today. It’s not very experimental – remember Tonga 2012? – and so carries on from what we have seen so far, but he has done some shuffling.
Richie Gray has been back in training this week, and with Tim Swinson announced in the Glasgow team to face Ospreys it was near inevitable Richie’s heft would be required to face the Georgian pack. Grant Gilchrist reverts to the bench after a quiet afternoon against the Pumas.
Props Dell and Fagerson make it three from three and their reward is to face a formidable Georgian scrum, although Ross Ford’s ballast has been picked in the middle ahead of dynamism in the loose.
Magnus Bradbury drops out of the squad completely as Rob Harley starts at 6 with Ryan Wilson given the nod at number eight. This means that John Barclay – the pick of Scotland’s back row so far – sits on the bench. It also means no appearances for either Josh Strauss or Cornell du Preez this autumn, as the latter is forced to wait for a first cap.
Much has been made of Greig Laidlaw’s performance on Saturday, but the 58-cap veteran was never going to be dropped and Cotter’s captain leads the side again alongside the mercurial Finn Russell. The half-back pair won’t play together again until the Six Nations, so another 80 minutes under their belt would do no harm.
Huw Jones’ injury, suffered in the act of setting up Sean Maitland against the Pumas, provides Cotter with his real selection headache of the week. There has been no SOS call for Matt Scott, and with Duncan Taylor still sidelined, Mark Bennett dons the number 13 jersey, with Pete Horne left to provide midfield cover from the bench.
The back three all keep their spots from the Argentina win; no surprises there. Expect the Scots to look to move a hefty Georgian side around.
Among those lying in wait on the bench, Moray Low’s place might have been in some doubt after a disappointing cameo from the Exeter Chiefs’ man last week, but with no other recognised tightheads left in the squad, he hangs on. Gordon Reid and Josh Strauss are also playing for Glasgow which means Alex Allan again covers the loosehead and John Barclay provides versatility across the back row.
Ali Price will hope to earn his first cap after two spending the last two Saturdays on the Scotland bench, while Rory Hughes returns to cover the wing having also sat on the bench against Australia. If it’s a tussle, expect Cotter to stick with the first choices as long as he can.
Scotland team to face Georgia: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (c); Allan Dell, Ross Ford, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Alex Allan, Moray Low, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay, Ali Price, Peter Horne, Rory Hughes
Unavailable through injury: Alasdair Dickinson (hamstring), John Hardie (ankle), Huw Jones (foot), Henry Pyrgos (knee).