Ireland v Scotland: Nick Haining handed debut as Gregor Townsend rings the changes

10 changes to the team which started last match against Japan ahead of Six Nations opener in Dublin

Nick Haining
Nick Haining is back from Scotland duty and will start for Edinburgh against Scarlets. Image: David Gibson / Fotosport.

EDINBURGH’S Australian-born No 8 Nick Haining has been handed his Scotland debut in a new-look side for Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin. He will line up in the back row alongside his capital club team-mates Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie. With Magnus Bradbury missing out due to a thigh strain (he is expected to be fit to play against England next week), Cornell du Preez is on the bench.

There are 10 changes in total to the starting XV from Scotland’s last match, when they lost to Japan in their final pool outing at the 2019 World Cup.

Scott Cummings starts in the second row alongside his Glasgow Warriors club mate Jonny Gray, with Ben Toolis on the bench, meaning there is no Grant Gilchrist.

Hooker Fraser Brown retains his place, with Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland (making his first appearance since the summer of 2016) as his props.

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Captain Stuart Hogg and Sam Johnson are the only players retained in the back division. Ali Price is preferred to George Horne at scrum-half, Adam Hastings is at stand-off in place of the exiled Finn Russell, and Huw Jones returns to outside centre after missing out on selection for the World Cup. Sean Maitland and Blair Kinghorn are on the wings.

“We have managed to cover a lot of work in the two weeks we’ve been together and we’ve been impressed with how our players have taken on information and bonded as a team,” said head coach Gregor Townsend. “Our goal is always to play to our potential. The challenge to do this starts on Saturday against Ireland.

“Playing to our potential starts with our collective mindset. That means being alert, focussed and resilient right from the beginning, to be ready for the physical battle that lies ahead and able to stay in the fight throughout the 80 minutes.

“We must be a relentless collective on the pitch and a nightmare for the Irish to deal with, while having the ability and awareness to impose our game at that intensity.”

“As coaches, we put frameworks together and create an environment for them to thrive and reach their potential but ultimately it’s the players who go out and deliver. We’re looking forward to seeing them play in Dublin.”

Scotland (v Ireland at Aviva Stadium, Saturday 4.45pm): S Hogg; S Maitland, H Jones, S Johnson, B Kinghorn; A Hastings, A Price; R Sutherland, F Brown, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, J Gray J Ritchie, H Watson, N Haining. Subs: S McInally, A Dell, S Berghan, B Toolis, C du Preez, G Horne, R Hutchinson, C Harris.

Ireland: J Larmour; A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Herring, T Furlong, I Henderson, J Ryan, C Stander, J van der Flier, C Doris. Subs: R Kelleher, D Kilcoyne, A Porter, D Toner, P O’Mahony, J Cooney, R Byrne, R Henshaw.

Ireland v Scotland: World Cup hammering offers clues to redemption

About David Barnes 4012 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Just hope our front row stands up, or Hainings debut might be in reverse gear.
    Sutherland has hardly played with three of four regular match day looseheads in Edin and Glasg non Scottish qualified. Nuts.

    Fagerson a bull in the loose but not the most convincing in the scrum.

    I travel in hope!

  2. Chris Harris is unlucky not to start as one of the only players who did themselves credit at the World Cup, and I’d like to see Matt Scott back in the national team. But ultimately we need to get a settled midfield so Johnson/Jones makes sense, extending their run of club games. Should also help Hastings having familiar players outside him.

    Townsend’s words are spot on – just hope the team can put them into action.

    • Harris is fine and in decent form, probably deserves a squad place right. However he is no Huw Jones, who now appears to be coming back to the player he was circa 2016-2018 so delighted to see him in that team again- his test try scoring record is unbelievably good.

  3. Big ask for Sutherland, I’ll have my fingers crossed for him. Happy enough with Haining, he’s worth a look. Would have preferred Horne but overall as reasonable a side as I could have asked for. Let’s hope that Saturday reminds Finn what he’s missing out on.

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