Six Nations

Scotland hand debut to Sam Johnson for Six Nations opener

2019-01-31 15:59
Gregor Townsend (AFP)

Edinburgh - Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend will hand a Test debut to Glasgow centre Sam Johnson for the Six Nations opener at home to Italy on Saturday.

Newcastle flanker Gary Graham, previously called up by England coach Eddie Jones, and Leicester hooker Jake Kerr could also win their first caps if they appear off the bench.

Edinburgh fullback Blair Kinghorn will start on the left wing as the Dark Blues welcome the Azzurri to Murrayfield.

With Edinburgh resurgent under Richard Cockerill this season, Townsend has chosen to go with the capital outfit's tight five. Hooker Stuart McInally will squeeze in between props Allan Dell and WP Nel, with Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist forming the second row.

Exeter lock Sam Skinner will slot into the back row after showing he can fill in at flanker during his impressive introduction to the national team set-up during the autumn, with Ryan Wilson and Jamie Ritchie completing the back row.

Skipper Greig Laidlaw will partner Racing 92 star Finn Russell in the half-backs, while Australia-born Johnson, who qualifies on residency grounds after signing for Glasgow in 2015, lines up alongside Huw Jones in midfield.

Stuart Hogg will again provide an attacking threat from fullback as he slots in beside Kinghorn, deputising for the injured Sean Maitland, and Tommy Seymour in the back three.

"Italy have made life tough for Scotland in every Test match we've played," said Townsend.

"I remember that as a player, as a supporter and as a coach -- and they were better than us in most of last season's contest in Rome," he added, while recalling a narrow 29-27 victory at the Stadio Olimpico.

"They played with pace, were physical and we had to play really, really well in the final quarter to win.

"Our challenge is to win the physical battle, which is a strength of Italian rugby.

"We will also have to bring energy and accuracy in order to get our campaign off to a winning start."

Teams

Scotland

15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Willem Nel, 3 Stuart McInally, 1 Allan Dell

Substitutes: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Gary Graham, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Ali Price, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Chris Harris 

Italy 

15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Michele Campagnaro, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi; 8 Sergio Parisse (captain); 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 David Sisi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti

Substitutes: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Edoardo Padovani

Read more on:    scotland  |  six nations  |  gregor townsend  |  rugby

 

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Fixtures
Saturday, 23 February 2019
France v Scotland, Stade de France 16:15
Wales v England, Principality Stadium 18:45
Sunday, 24 February 2019
Italy v Ireland, Stadio Olimpico 17:00
Saturday, 09 March 2019
Scotland v Wales, BT Murrayfield Stadium 16:15
England v Italy, Twickenham Stadium 18:45
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