Six Nations 2014: Scotland make three changes ahead of Italy match
Six Nations 2014: Scott Johnson makes three changes to his Scotland squad ahead of their Italy match
Scott Johnson has made three changes to the Scotland squad to face Italy in the Six Nations on Saturday.
Still reeling from the 20-0 demolition job by England in the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield earlier this month, Johnson has dropped to the bench error-strewn hooker Ross Ford, lock Tim Swinson and, the most surprising of the three, Edinburgh number 8 David Denton.
I think this weekend it’s really about showing what we can do
In their places are Castres lock Richie Gray, who links up with regular second row partner Jim Hamilton, Newcastle Falcons hooker Scott Lawson who joins Ryan Grant and Moray Low in the front row, and Johnnie Beattie at number 8 behind Warriors flankers Ryan Wilson and Chris Fusaro.
“I’m delighted to be back. I think I speak for all the players in the fact we’re looking forward to going out and putting in a performance,” Gray told scottishrugby.org.
“I was not involved against England but I think the guys were pretty down and they did not manage to show what they can do. So I think this weekend it’s really about showing what we can do.”
After the England debacle, Johnson talked about tinkering with his squad for Italy rather than than making wholesale changes, despite the Azzurri expected to be fired up after impressing in defeats to Wales and France in the opening two rounds.
The Aussie coach was at pains to describe his backs as young, inexperienced and naïve at Murrayfield, but has kept faith with the back seven he sees as largely the future of Scottish rugby.
With captain Kelly Brown still not in Johnson’s plans, Greig Laidlaw continues as captain from scrum-half alongside Glasgow outside-half Duncan Weir with Alex Dunbar and Matt Scott continuing at centre.
Sean Lamont, who will need to show more leadership in the backs, continues on the left wing with Tommy Seymour also retaining his place on the right wing.
Despite mooting the idea of a switch to outside-half, Stuart Hogg is kept at full-back and will provide cover at 10 should Weir go off.
“We’ve made the changes to the pack with a view to improving the supply and quality of possession,” Johnson said.
“Italy are formidable opponents, especially in Rome, and Scotland’s matches against them in recent years have been a real arm wrestle.
“We’re all hurting at the results of the first two games but the players we’ve chosen have the chance to do something that can make our supporters proud this weekend.”
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Lamont (Glasgow); Duncan Weir (Glasgow), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh, captain); Ryan Grant (Glasgow), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Moray Low (Glasgow), Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Montpellier), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier).
Replacements: Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Tim Swinson (Glasgow), David Denton (Edinburgh); Chris Cusiter (Glasgow), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Max Evans (Castres).