24 Nov Scotland add experience for Rugby Park return
Head Coach Vern Cotter has added international experience to the Scotland side named to face Georgia at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock this Saturday (26 November, kick-off 2.30pm) – live on BBC.
The match will be the national team’s second venture to the Ayrshire ground, after defeating Tonga 37-12 at the home of Kilmarnock FC in November 2014.
Rugby Park boasts a World Rugby approved 3G pitch, and Scotland’s 2014 fixture at the venue was globally ground-breaking as the first international match involving a tier-one nation to be held on a fully-artificial surface.
Cotter said: “Our players are excited to be back in Kilmarnock and having the west country supporting us like they did two years ago will be great.
“The crowd’s enthusiasm will be key to getting a good performance against Georgia. The players feed off the energy from the stands, it’s one of these tangible things and really does help spur on the guys.”
There are five new faces in the starting line-up who add a further 125 caps to the side that overcame Argentina 19-16 in Edinburgh last weekend.
Centre Mark Bennett is the only change to the back division, with the Olympic silver medallist from Cumnock replacing the injured Huw Jones (foot) to confirm a homecoming to the Ayrshire ground.
It will be Bennett’s first game at the stadium, having missed the outings of both Scotland and Glasgow Warriors in previous years. It will be his first Scotland appearance since February.
Bennett will reform a familiar midfield partnership with clubmate Alex Dunbar in front of returning back-three players Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour.
The remaining changes occur in the pack, with cap centurion Ross Ford returning to the starting front-row alongside returning props Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson.
Lock Richie Gray has recovered from his suspected concussion to re-join brother Jonny in the second-row, while Rob Harley and Ryan Wilson come in to start in the back-row with the reinstated Hamish Watson.
The match will be Harley’s first start since the 2015 RBS 6 Nations.
Cotter added: “We’ve learned a lot from our previous Tests against Australia and Argentina and that’s what these games are about – learning what worked and what didn’t and making sure we improve with every game.
“Knowledge gained from our one-point loss to Australia and 83rd minute victory over Argentina will be important in negotiating Saturday’s game in the best way possible to get the win we want.
“Georgia are striving to be among the world’s best as they knock on the door of the top ten in the world rankings.
“We are expecting a typical Georgian game. They will be physical up front as they play a forwards-based game, however they are also developing their backs.”
Hooker Fraser Brown, lock Grant Gilchrist and John Barclay – who started last week’s game – are selected on the bench as consequence of the changes, while a further change to the replacements sees Rory Hughes selected in place of Tim Visser.
Scotland team to play Georgia at Rugby Park
Saturday 26 November (kick-off 2.30pm) – live on BBC
15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 47 caps; 11 tries, 3 pens, 64 points
14 Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 25 caps; 4 tries, 20 points
13 Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors) – 16 caps; 6 tries, 30 points
12 Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 18 caps; 5 tries, 25 points
11 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 30 caps; 13 tries, 65 points
10 Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 21 caps; 2 tries, 3 cons, 1 pen, 19 points
9 Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Gloucester) – 55 caps; 4 tries, 69 cons, 133 pens, 557 points
1 Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby) – 2 caps
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) – 101 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
3 Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
4 Richie Gray (Toulouse) – 59 caps; 3 tries, 15 points
5 Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 27 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
6 Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors) – 18 caps; 1 try, 5 points
7 Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 4 caps
8 Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 22 caps
16 Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps
17 Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors) – 2 caps
18 Moray Low (Exeter Chiefs) – 36 caps
19 Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – 14 caps; 1 try, 5 points
20 John Barclay (Scarlets) – 54 caps; 4 tries, 20 points
21 Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
22 Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 22 caps; 2 tries, 1 con, 1 pen, 15 points
23 Rory Hughes (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 cap
Unavailable through injury: Alasdair Dickinson (hamstring), John Hardie (ankle), Huw Jones (foot), Henry Pyrgos (knee).