Scotland announce squad for Italy opener

Max Chesterton
31 January 2019

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Scotland open their Six Nations campaign against Italy on Saturday and have announced that of the 23 selected, more than half are in the Guinness PRO14.

They all play for Glasgow Warriors or Edinburgh, but will be without Thistle skipper and Edinburgh number eight John Barclay, who is still recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Gregor Townsend’s men have been labelled by some as dark horses, and they have a good chance of success if the 16 selected can replicate their league form, which has taken both Scottish sides to the higher echelons of their respective conferences in the Guinness PRO14 teams.

Glasgow Warriors heavily involved

Australian born Sam Johnson is the talking point as he is in line to make his Scotland debut at centre, having played there for Glasgow Warriors since 2015.

Stuart Hogg has been a key man for club and country in recent years and in his last four starts has scored 17 points, including one try for his nation.

Also featuring in the starting line-up will be Warriors stalwarts Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson. Seymour has scored 190 points in 120 games for his club and has managed 15 points in seven Guinness PRO14 games this season, whilst Wilson has only featured twice.

Centre Huw Jones is the final Glasgow player who will start against the Italians after scoring two tries in five appearances this season.

On the bench will be scrum-half Ali Price, prop Jamie Bhatti, and fly-half Adam Hastings, all of whom are relatively inexperienced in international rugby, with 34 caps between them.

Edinburgh bolster Scotland’s charge

In Conference B Edinburgh are in fine form and find themselves third. Eight of their players will feature against Italy, and only one of those misses out on the starting line-up.

Edinburgh captain Stuart McInally starts as hooker for his 23rd cap after playing a vital part in leading his club side up Conference B in the Guinness PRO14 and is closing in on 100 club appearances.

Lock Ben Toolis will also start. He has played the most minutes of all the Edinburgh representatives in the squad and has been key to the lineout this season, winning 39 of his team’s set-pieces.

South African born WP Nel is becoming a regular for Scotland as he is for his club side. He has made over 100 appearances in the Guinness PRO14, 92 for Edinburgh, and this season the prop has made 54 tackles in just 371 minutes.

Full-back Blair Kinghorn will also start after scoring two tries in seven appearances this season, as will Lock Grant Gilchrist who has featured the same number of times as Kinghorn, and in that time he has made 46 carries and 69 tackles.

Jamie Ritchie has been a key member of the Edinburgh back row this season, his impressive 77 tackles in five starts makes him more than deserving of a seventh international cap.

Prop Simon Berghan has appeared three times as a substitute for Edinburgh in the Guinness PRO14 this year, and it is from the bench that he will be hoping for his chance against Italy.

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