Gregor Townsend announced his matchday squad to face Italy at BT Murrayfield on Saturday 20th March, and as if to provide further proof of these unprecedented, crazy times we’re living in, captain Stuart Hogg has moved from his regular full-back berth to play at stand-off.
Despite Jaco van der Walt being available, the Edinburgh stand-off has to make do with a spot on the bench while Hogg tries himself out at Test level in the central role.
Explaining his decision, Townsend said: “He obviously covered 10 last week and has covered there in previous games, and we believe it gives us a better balance to the team. We’re keen to see him play there, if he’s going to be at times a reserve 10 in our squad, this gives us a good opportunity to see him starting there.
“Stuart is one of the best full-backs in the world and has been in great form this year, so full back is his position, but given his experience; his leadership ability; his all round skill-set, we do see him being able to cover other positions when required and this is an opportunity for him to do that on Saturday.”
Zander Fagerson returns from suspension to start at tighthead, and he’ll pack down to the right-hand side of David Cherry who makes his first start for Scotland after George Turner’s poor day with the darts against Ireland.
With injuries to both Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings, Exeter’s Sam Skinner and Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist form a new look combo in the engine room, whilst the back-row trio of Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson practically pick themselves at this point – so no first cap for Josh Bayliss.
Fresh from his cameo role as an openside, Scott Steele returns to the more familiar position of scrum-half, and after starting the last three million games in a row, Chris Harris drops to the bench for the more attack-minded Huw Jones at centre.
Hogg’s place at full-back is taken by the evergreen Sean Maitland, so Darcy Graham comes onto the right-wing to complete the changes amongst the backs.
There’s a chance of a debut off the bench for Alex Craig, and Ali Price will be hoping that if he does come onto the field it will be in Steele’s position rather than one of the positions Steele has found himself in.
Sean Maitland, Darcy Graham, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe, Stuart Hogg (c), Scott Steele; Rory Sutherland, David Cherry, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson
Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Alex Craig, Nick Haining, Ali Price, Jaco van der Walt, Chris Harris