MATCH PREVIEW | Scotland v Ireland

MATCH PREVIEW | Scotland v Ireland

Scotland v Ireland at BT Murrayfield
RBS 6 Nations: Round One
Saturday 4 February (kick-off 2.25pm)

Scotland team news

Head Coach Vern Cotter has named three changes to start Scotland’s opening RBS 6 Nations match at a sold-out BT Murrayfield Stadium.

Stormers centre Huw Jones is back in the starting line-up in place of Mark Bennett, having recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out of the team’s third and final autumn test match against Georgia in November.

Jones will reform the midfield partnership he forged in those two tests with Alex Dunbar in between returning half backs Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell, and the back-three trio of Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour, who contributed half of Scotland’s 10-try tally in the autumn.

The remaining changes are in the pack which sees Glasgow Warriors hooker Fraser Brown promoted from the bench in place of cap centurion Ross Ford and Josh Strauss (back-row) replace clubmate Rob Harley.

Strauss’ inclusion at number 8 sees Ryan Wilson make a positional switch to the blindside of the back-row, with Hamish Watson holding down the openside role he occupied throughout the autumn.

Second-row brothers Jonny and Richie Gray return to the boiler house with young props Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson packing down either side of Brown in the front-row.

Ireland team news

There are three personnel changes and two positional switches to the Ireland team that defeated Australia in November.

Robbie Henshaw is reunited with his Leinster centre partner Garry Ringrose in midfield, covering the absence of the sidelined Jared Payne (kidney), with RBS 6 Nations debutant Ringrose swapping the number 12 jersey for 13.

The second change in the backs sees groin injury victim Andrew Trimble make way for Simon Zebo who performed admirably as a replacement against the Wallabies and has scored six tries in his last nine appearances for Munster.

Moving to the right wing, Keith Earls completes the back-three with Zebo and full-back Rob Kearney, while Ulster stand-off Paddy Jackson – who made his debut away to Scotland four years ago – will win his 20th cap at alongside Conor Murray.

The front five is unchanged from Ireland’s most recent Test, with hooker Rory Best – captaining his country for the 16th time on the occasion of his 101st cap – joined by Leinster props Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong in the front row. It will be Furlong’s first start in the championship.

Iain Henderson gets the nod in the second-row where he partners Devin Toner, while Sean O’Brien – who has shaken off a calf injury – returns to the openside flanker berth, forming a powerful row combination with CJ Stander and vice-captain Jamie Heaslip.

SCOTLAND: 15. Stuart Hogg; 14. Sean Maitland, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Alex Dunbar, 11. Tommy Seymour; 10. Finn Russell, 9. Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN; 1. Allan Dell, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Ryan Wilson, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Josh Strauss. Substitutes: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Tim Swinson, 20. John Barclay, 21. Ali Price, 22. Duncan Weir, 23. Mark Bennett.

IRELAND: 15. Rob Kearney; 14. Keith Earls, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Simon Zebo; 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Jack McGrath, 2. Rory Best, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Iain Henderson, 5. Devin Toner, 6. CJ Stander, 7. Sean O’Brien, 8. Jamie Heaslip. Substitutes: 16. Niall Scannell, 17. Cian Healy, 18. John Ryan, 19. Ultan Dillane, 20. Josh van der Flier, 21. Kieran Marmion, 22. Ian Keatley, 23. Tommy Bowe.

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