Scotland boss Gregor Townsend has made four changes to his XV for Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup match away to Italy in Florence, handing a first start in four years to out-half Duncan Weir and recalling fit-again Sam Johnson. 

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Weir last wore the Scottish No10 jersey in a 2016 Six Nations defeat to Ireland in Dublin but he now returns due to the long-term injuries picked up by Finn Russell and Adam Hastings in the October 31 away Six Nations win at Wales. 

Weir is one of three changes to the Scotland backline from the victory in Llanelli as there is also the inclusion of fit-again midfielder Johnson, who last featured in the March win over France, and recently eligible South African Duhan van der Merwe, who comes in on the left wing for his second start.

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James Lang and Blair Kinghorn both drop to the bench. There is just one change in the starting pack, Stuart McInally in at hooker for Fraser Brown. 

“It’s a testament to his character,” said Townsend regarding Weir’s long road back to the side. “When he has had the chance to play for Scotland he’s been very proud and passionate. He always gave 100 per cent when he played and he still does.

“You can see the effort he puts in on defence and in support play and in the time he spends on the training field. There are experiences he’s had now, with different coaches and different environments, and he’s in his late 20s playing in a position where you do learn.

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“He’s playing great rugby and it’s a bonus for us with those two players injured to be able to call on someone who is playing regularly at Premiership level and is confident in what he’s doing.”

Looking ahead to the Italian challenge, Townsend added: “While we gained confidence from the win over Wales, we have been working hard to improve in all areas of our game, and we believe that there is a lot more to come from this group of players.

“The energy has been great at training and we are seeing real competition for places throughout our squad. We are looking forward to this squad grabbing their opportunity to play and take the game to the opposition.”

SCOTLAND (vs Italy, Saturday)
15. Stuart Hogg CAPTAIN (Exeter Chiefs) – 77 caps
14. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 13 caps
13. Chris Harris (Gloucester) – 20 caps
12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 13 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) – 2 caps
10. Duncan Weir (Worcester Warriors) – 28 caps
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 34 caps
1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh) – 9 caps
2. Stuart McInally VICE CAPTAIN (Edinburgh) – 39 caps
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 31 caps
4. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – 14 caps
5. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) – 58 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie VICE CAPTAIN (Edinburgh) – 20 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 34 caps
8. Blade Thomson (Scarlets) – 6 caps

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Substitutes
16. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps
17. Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors) – 2 caps
18. WP Nel (Edinburgh) – 38 caps
19. Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) – 7 caps
20. Nick Haining (Edinburgh) – 4 caps
21. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Exeter Chiefs) – 12 caps
22. James Lang (Harlequins) – 4 caps
23. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 23 caps

 

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