Gregor Townsend has made three change to his Scotland team to face Italy in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday, with hooker Stuart McInally, second row Ben Toolis and centre Chris Harris promoted from the bench for their first starts of the 2020 campaign.

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McInally swaps places with Glasgow Warriors’ Fraser Brown, who moves to the bench, and Toolis comes in for the injured Jonny Gray (hand), while Harris is picked in favour of Huw Jones, with Sale Sharks wing Byron McGuigan taking his place on the bench.

Reflecting on the team changes, Townsend said: “We believe Chris and Stuart deserve this opportunity. They were very close to the starting XV when we entered this campaign. We think this is the right time for them to come in.

“Chris has been excellent for Gloucester this season and has continued to make improvements since the summer. He works very hard on both sides of the ball, which will be important this week.

“Stuart has shown over the past few weeks he’s back to full fitness and is raring to go, and Ben gets an opportunity to start following Jonny’s injury against England.

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“Second row is a position we have a lot of competition with a number of very good players available for selection. We’re looking forward to seeing how he combines again with Scott (Cummings) after a successful outing together against Russia in the World Cup.”

Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham returned to training last week but did not recover sufficiently from his knee injury to be considered for selection.

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Both Scotland and Italy go into the game with two defeats each so far in this year’s tournament, the Scots losing to Ireland and England while the Italians have lost out to Wales and France.

The Scots have won 22 of the 30 Tests between the nations but the odds are more evenly stacked when they meet in Italy where the results are level on six wins apiece thanks to a recent run of four consecutive away wins for the Scots.

Townsend added: “Italy are always a very tough opponent, especially in Rome, where we know they’ll look to play with a huge amount of energy.

“It’s a different Italy team to the one we’ve played in the past. In their opening two games of the championship, they have played with real ambition and width.

“They’ve also selected athletic, ball players who suit this strategy and are comfortable playing at a high tempo. We are well aware of the threats throughout their team and how their attacking game can cause problems for any defence.”

Scotland team (vs Italy, Saturday)
15. Stuart Hogg CAPT (Exeter Chiefs) – 74 caps
14. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 46 caps
13. Chris Harris (Gloucester)- 16 caps
12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 11 caps
11. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 19 caps
10. Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 18 caps
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 30 caps
1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh) – 5 caps
2. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) – 35 caps
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 27 caps
4. Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) – 24 caps
5. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – 10 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) – 16 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 30 caps
8. Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh) – 12 caps

Substitutes:
16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 48 caps
17. Allan Dell (London Irish) – 30 caps
18. Willem Nel (Edinburgh) – 36 caps
19. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 40 caps
20. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 5 caps
21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 11 caps
22. Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints) – 4 caps
23. Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) – 9 caps

WATCH: The Rugby Pod looks ahead to round three in the Guinness Six Nations 

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