Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has taken the surprise decision to withdraw star fly-half Finn Russell for their final 2022 Six Nations game in Ireland on Saturday.
British and Irish Lions tourist Russell, 29, was recently criticized for his lack of defensive work-rate in a 36-17 home loss to France. Edinburgh utility Blair Kinghorn will take over the No.10 shirt in his place, with Russell settling for a place on the substitutes’ bench.
Exeter Chiefs lock Jonny Gray has also returned to the starting XV and will earn his 67th cap alongside second line partner Grant Gilchrist. Captain Stuart Hogg is the only player in the squad with more experience and is set to earn his 93rd cap at the Aviva Stadium.
Kinghorn and Gray are the only newcomers to the XV who started in last Saturday’s 33-22 win over Italy. Kyle Steyn will continue to fill in for the win on the left in place of suspended Duhan van der Merwe, while Sam Johnson and Chris Harris (two) continue their partnership down the middle after combing through three tries in Rome.
Among the field, Hamish Watson will move a touching distance away from his half-century in Scotland as he earns a 49th cap on the open flank. Glasgow prospect Rory Darge retains the No.6 shirt and will start a third straight senior game for his country, while Matt Fagerson is back at No.8 after an impressive tournament so far.
Josh Bayliss could make his Six Nations debut on the bench after earning his first senior cap for Scotland against Australia in November. The Bath second tier was called up to the 2021 squad but failed to make an appearance for Townsend’s side.
Scotland are aiming for their third victory of the tournament and still have a chance of finishing third in the Six Nations table, although they must win in Dublin for the first time since 2010 to do so. The Irish hosts will also be motivated to clinch maximum spoils, given that the crown can still be theirs if they win and England surprise France in Paris.
Andy Farrell’s side have won the last six meetings between these teams and are favorites to add to that streak on Saturday. The boys in green stormed late to claim a 32-15 bonus point win over 14-man England last Saturday when lock Charlie Ewels was shown a red card after just 82 seconds.
The Dublin hosts will be aiming for more or less the same as they look to ratchet up the pressure on France before the evening kicks off with England.
Scotland v Ireland team
(Back) Stuart Hogg (captain); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Kyle Steyn; Blair Kinghorn, Ali Price; (Attackers) Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist; Rory Darge, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson
Representatives: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Josh Bayliss, Ben White, Finn Russell, Mark Bennett