EDINBURGH winger Duhan van der Merwe has been named in Scotland’s starting XV for Friday night’s Autumn Test Series opener against Georgia at Murrayfield, with fellow ‘Jock Bok’ Oli Kebble set to make his debut off the bench.
The two South African-born players qualified to play for Scotland earlier this year through the three-year residency rule.
Elsewhere, Adam Hastings retains the No10 jersey he wore throughout the Six Nations before lockdown, with Finn Russell named on the bench, while Fraser Brown will captain the side in the absence of Stuart Hogg, who is on club duty with Exeter Chiefs in their Gallagher Premiership Final clash against Wasps on Saturday. Scrum-half Ali Price and back-row Jamie Ritchie have been named as vice-captains.
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Brown packs down in the front row between Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland, and with Grant Gilchrist dropping out of the squad due to injury, it will be Ben Toolis and Scott Cummings pairing in second-row, with Rob Harley on the bench meaning that Richie Gray won’t feature this weekend.
Matt Fagerson starts at No 8 alongside Ritchie and Hamish Watson on the flanks.
James Lang will win his third cap at inside centre, two years after his first two Scotland appearances during Scotland’s 2018 summer tour of the Americas, Chris Harris carries on at outside centre, and it is an all Edinburgh back-three with Darcy Graham and Blair Kinghorn linking up with van Der Merwe. Damian Hoyland has also left the squad due to injury.
Head coach Gregor Townsend has gone with a six-two split on the bench.
Sale Sharks hooker Ewan Ashman has been added to the training squad.
“It’s been great to have the players back in camp and as coaches we’ve really enjoyed working with them again after the enforced break due to Covid-19,” said Townsend, who stated this is the strongest team available.
“As we start our autumn series the game against Georgia provides a real test as a first up match and we have taken the opportunity to select a side that reflects where our players are in terms of their game time this season, their current form, as well as the contributions they made during the Six Nations at the start of the year.”
“It is a testament to the professionalism and hard work Fraser has given to Scotland in recent years that we have selected him as the captain and he will be well supported by Jamie and Ali, who have grown as leaders over the past couple of seasons.”
“Georgia have a new coaching group in place and will want to put down a marker for their own campaign so we have picked as strong a squad as possible to go up against what will be a very physical and motivated opponent.”
Scotland (v Georgia at BT Murrayfield, Friday @ 7.30pm): B Kinghorn; D Graham, C Harris, J Lang, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, A Price (VC); R Sutherland, F Brown©, Z Fagerson, B Toolis, S Cummings, J Ritchie (VC), H Watson, M Fagerson. Substitutes: S McInally, O Kebble, S Berghan, R Harley, N Haining, C du Preez, G Horne, F Russell.
Referee: Alex Ruiz (FFR)