Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Hogg at 10 for Italy showdown

Stuart Hogg
Stuart Hogg - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

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

8 Responses

  1. Hogg 10 and Jones 13. This has the potential to be a tryfest for Scotland or an absolute shambles. Good to see a bit of rotation considering we still have a game next week (probably). Here’s hoping the gambles pay off!

  2. Hogg starting at 10. Blimey!

    I don’t know whether to applaud Toony (for once) or send the men in white coats over to collect him.

    Ah, to heck with it. It’s bold, gutsy and attack-minded. I’m in.

    1. From losing all interest as a result of the Ireland game this actually brings back a bit of fun. Finally there’s a midfield – playing for the right to face France.

  3. Do you know what I’m looking forward to seeing how this team goes. This was never going to be a game about playing field position and kicking down the touchlines given the lineout shambles of last week. A lot of focus will be on Hogg but Steele likes a good break from the base so this might work for him and us. also think we might see DvdM turning up as first receiver more often. Hopefully they’ve been practicing a few set plays and then it’ll be heads up rugby once we’ve settled down.

  4. With no comment on individual abilities, to be honest I am not a fan of this selection. We don’t need flash from 10 to beat Italy, we need a steady performance directing play behind the (hopefully) dominant pack.

    Jaco is presumably now fit, and has made his career at 10. Hogg is a career 15 and by preference not by necessity. I think that should be the end of it…

    This sort of thing exemplifies Scotland’s problem nowadays – we are always chasing rainbows, rather than trusting in ourselves to do a job over frankly very weak opposition through business as usual.

    It seems panicky and unconfident, and if I am Franco Smith, I am buoyed by the fact that apparently we don’t trust our broader squad players or our systems to deliver the result in the absence of Russell.

  5. Alanyst – exactly, eloquently said

    Italy will come out fast, a steady, reliable, kicking 10 (like VDW) is perfect to tackle & kick sensibly & steadily to punish the Italy mistakes. (exactly like Wales/Biggar did)

    Now I’m all for excitement & this selection may well provide a 40 point victory in thrilling style but………………….

    Its almost like we are back to the fastest rugby in the world.

    No Nel, Kebble is interesting & limited options re the back replacements.

    Leave on a positive – if this team clicks we are in for some fun.

  6. I love it! Hogg covered 10 well in the 2 games he has briefly played there – will be good to see him for a full game to see if he is a genuine option for cover during games (freeing up a bench spot for a more versatile player than just a 10).

    Also nice to see Steele, Jones and Skinner starting – shame it’s against Italy so any good performances will be passed off as because we are playing them. If they play well, I hope they actually get considered for France.

    Cherry is a bit of a concern at 2, but Turner deserved to be dropped after the lineout shambles last week. Shame we don’t always have the depth to drop players who need a kick up the arse – I suspect it would focus a lot of minds if they know they aren’t nailed on.

    Should be entertaining at least -Scotland to score 50, but Italy to get a few tries as defence will be tricky with a big reshuffle.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion