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Scotland make four changes, including a recall for Sean Maitland who lost with Saracens in the Championship last weekend

By Liam Heagney

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Scotland have made four changes to their team to play Ireland on Sunday at Murrayfield in round four of the Guinness Six Nations following their February 13 24-25 home loss to Wales. With tighthead Zander Fagerson suspended following his red card, coach Gregor Townsend has called in veteran WP Nel to start in the front row for the first time since October 2019.

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The other change to the pack sees Jamie Ritchie return at blindside in place of Blade Thomson. Meanwhile, in the backs, Sam Johnson takes over at outside centre in place of James Lang while Sean Maitland returns on the right wing for the benched Darcy Graham. Maitland was a starter last weekend in Saracens’ shock Championship debut defeat at Cornish Pirates.

Aside from Graham, there are four other changes to the bench from the last day, Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Grant Gilchrist and Nick Haining all securing selection.

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Scotland’s Finn Russell guess on RugbyPass Offload with Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson

Townsend said: “We are well aware of the threats posed by an experienced Ireland squad and our players have prepared for a contest they know is going to require one of their best performances. We had prepared well for our postponed game against France and the players have adapted well to the change of plans and have brought real energy and focus to our training sessions this week.

“Playing Ireland is always a physical affair and one that demands you keep stepping up to make tackles or contest for possession. They have played well in their opening three games of the championship and have some outstanding players in their squad. It should be a cracking game.”

The Scots are currently fifth on the Six Nations table with just five points, nine points behind the leaders Wales and two behind the third-place Irish. Townsend’s side had their February 28 match with second place French postponed. Ireland coach Andy Farrell has opted to bring back Keith Earls, Cian Healy and Rob Herring, who were all on the bench in Rome, to his team for this Sunday’s game.   

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SCOTLAND (vs Ireland, Sunday)
15. Stuart Hogg CAPTAIN (Exeter Chiefs) – 82 caps
14. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 51 caps
13. Chris Harris (Gloucester) – 25 caps
12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 15 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) – 7 caps
10. Finn Russell VICE CAPTAIN (Racing 92) – 53 caps
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 39 caps
1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh) – 13 caps
2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 14 caps
3. WP Nel (Edinburgh) – 42 caps
4. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps
5. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) – 63 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie VICE CAPTAIN (Edinburgh) – 24 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh – 38 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 11 caps
Substitutes:
16. David Cherry (Edinburgh) – 2 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Bath Rugby) – 16 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 28 caps
19. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 42 caps
20. Nick Haining (Edinburgh) – 5 caps
21. Scott Steele (Harlequins) – 2 caps
22. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 28 caps
23. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 16 caps

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Scotland make four changes, including a recall for Sean Maitland who lost with Saracens in the Championship last weekend

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