Vern Cotter’s last Six Nations begins with the squad to face Ireland and as usual it’s a case of gradual evolution rather than radical change.
With Toolis, Hardie, Hoyland and Cornell du Preez all named for Edinburgh against Munster tomorrow night, Hamish Watson and Allan Dell lead the Edinburgh contingent with cap centurion Ross Ford dropping to the bench for Fraser Brown. It’s probably the biggest call in the team, with Ford’s experience often valuable alongside the less-grizzled props. Having said that, it is a dynamic front row and could stay together for some time.
The back row contingent was always going to be the in form Wilson and Watson + AN other. To resume his acquaintance with Conor Murray Josh Strauss gets the nod, while John Barclay moves to the bench. It means that perhaps aside from Berghan (unproven) and Weir (not proven) the bench has a pretty useful look about it.
In the backs the only question really was who to pick at 13 outside Dunbar who has recovered enough form going forward to make him the defensive cornerstone. The answer for Cotter is Huw Jones, who must have been training well enough to get past both Mark Bennett and Matt Scott despite not playing since his last appearance at Murrayfield. He’ll get his first taste of Six Nations rugby on Saturday afternoon.
Laidlaw and Russell continue their partnership and the back three picks itself. A settled team, surely not?
Enthusiasm is building nicely – here we go again!
Scotland team to face Ireland at BT Murrayfield on Sat 4th Feb (1425pm GMT):
15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Alex Dunbar, 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Greig Laidlaw (capt); 1. Allan Dell, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Ryan Wilson, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Josh Strauss
Replacements: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Tim Swinson, 20. John Barclay, 21. Ali Price, 22. Duncan Weir, 23. Mark Bennett
The Ireland team is as strong as expected:
Ireland: R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, T Furlong; I Henderson, D Toner; CJ Stander, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
Replacements: N Scannell, C Healy, U Dillane, J Ryan, D Ryan, K Marmion, I Keatley, T Bowe.
Referee: Romain Poite (FFR)