JONNY GRAY will make his first appearance of Scotland’s pre World Cup schedule after recovering from a hamstring issue to be named in the second-row for Friday night’s ‘farewell’ match against Georgia at Murrayfield, before the team fly off to Japan on Monday.
The side, which was named a day early, also includes centre Duncan Taylor, who missed the last two outings with an Achilles issue, plus No 8 Blade Thomson and winger Tommy Seymour, who have both recovered from head-knocks.
Fraser Brown has recovered from the toe injury which has sidelined him this summer but a decision has been made that there is no need to rush the hooker into game time this week, with the player proving in the past that he capable of jumping back in at the deep-end after after fairly lengthy time out.
Ryan Wilson will captain the side from blindside flanker, with Jamie Ritchie making up the back-row triumvirate at open-side.
Grant Stewart and Magnus Bradbury, who were cut from the final 31-man World Cup squad earlier this week, have been asked to front up one last time for the cause ahead of heading back to their clubs. They are both on the bench as head coach Gregor Townsend tries to balance the need to get some Japan-bound players valuable game-time with protecting those who have already reached their peak during the previous three warm-up matches.
“As with all those that didn’t make the 31-man squad, it’s important they keep training and playing well in case they get a call up during the tournament,” said Townsend. “I’d also like to thank the players and management for their outstanding contributions throughout our World Cup camp. It’s a credit to their hard work and professionalism that the squad are in such great physical condition.
“We’ve been together since the middle of June and Friday night is our final chance this year to play in front of our supporters. It’s another opportunity for players to get valuable game time and build on what was a very good performance last weekend in Georgia. We are very aware that Georgia will be much improved after their first hit out of the season and they will know much more about how we play.
“We expect a very tough challenge and it will require an improved performance from our men to deliver a winning outcome. It’s a boost to have Jonny back in side for the first time since last season and for others, like Tommy, Blade and Duncan, to have made a return to full fitness, following their recent injuries.
“Friday night gives us the opportunity to keep improving and get one step closer to playing our best rugby over the next few weeks.”
As anticipated, a number of the most experienced and influential players in the squad – including Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw, captain Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist, Hamish Watson and John Barclay – have been rested.
Scotland team to play Georgia (on Friday night at Murrayfield – kick-off @ 7.30pm): Blair Kinghorn; Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor, Sam Johnson, Darcy Graham; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson [CAPTAIN], Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson. Subs: Grant Stewart, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Magnus Bradbury, George Horne, Pete Horne, Chris Harris.