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Scotland make seven changes for Italy while Stuart Hogg also switches position

By Liam Heagney

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Scotland have made seven changes to their team to take on Italy on Saturday at Murrayfield in round five of the Guinness Six Nations following their 27-24 home loss last weekend to Ireland. Injuries and the likelihood of having to play France on March 26 – meaning they will play on three consecutive weekends – have factored into the plans of coach Gregor Townsend.

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There is a new half-back partnership, skipper Stuart Hogg switching from full-back to partner Scott Steele in his first start at scrum-half. In midfield, Huw Jones takes over from the benched Chris Harris at outside centre and with Sean Maitland switching from wing to full-back to cover for Hogg’s relocation to half-back, Darcy Graham comes in to start out wide.

The 28-year-old Hogg has never been picked at No10 in his 82 previous Scotland starts, but he has been providing in-game cover in that half-back position in recent times.

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In the pack, David Cherry makes his first start while Zander Fagerson returns at tighthead following his suspension for the red card picked up against Wales. The other changes in the forwards see Sam Skinner and Grant Gilchrist combine at second row in place of Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray. Meanwhile, on the bench, Gloucester lock Alex Craig is in line for his first cap.

Townsend said: “Saturday is an opportunity for us to show an improved performance and a much truer reflection of who we are as a team. It’s also an opportunity for a number of players in their first start of the championship.

“How we perform physically this weekend is going to be very important, both in terms of the energy and effort that is demanded from you each time you represent Scotland, and also our impacts in every contact. Whenever we play Italy, the contact area is fiercely contested and I’m sure this game will be no different.

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“Italy have been playing ambitious rugby and have performed better away from home in this year’s championship, causing both England and France a number of problems. We expect them to produce their best rugby of the season against us, so we are focused on delivering a full 80-minute performance.”

SCOTLAND (vs Italy, Saturday)
15. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 52 caps
14. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 17 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 29 caps
12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 16 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) – 8 caps
10. Stuart Hogg CAPTAIN (Exeter Chiefs) – 83 caps
9. Scott Steele (Harlequins) – 3 caps
1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh) – 14 caps
2. David Cherry (Edinburgh) 3 caps
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 36 caps
4. Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) – 10 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 43 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie VICE CAPTAIN (Edinburgh) – 25 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 39 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 12 caps
Substitutes:
16. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 15 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Bath Rugby) – 17 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 29 caps
19. Alex Craig (Gloucester) – Uncapped
20. Nick Haining (Edinburgh) – 6 caps
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 40 caps
22. Jaco van der Walt (Edinburgh) – 1 cap
23. Chris Harris (Gloucester) – 26 caps

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Scotland make seven changes for Italy while Stuart Hogg also switches position

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