Scotland v Ireland: Gregor Townsend makes four changes

WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Sean Maitland and Sam Johnson added to starting XV

Sean Maitland in action for Scotland versus Ireland during last year's Six Nations. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Sean Maitland in action for Scotland versus Ireland during last year's Six Nations. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

TIGHT-HEAD prop WP Nel, blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie, winger Sean Maitland and inside-centre Sam Johnson have returned to Scotland’s starting XV for Sunday’s Six Nations round four clash against Ireland at Murrayfield.

Simon Berghan and Jamie Bhatti are named as replacement props, alongside second-row Grant Gilchrist and back-row Nick Haining, with hooker David Cherry the only forward replacement to have seen previous action in this championship. Sam Skinner has been released back to play for Exeter Chiefs against Harlequins tomorrow.

Scott Steele, Huw Jones and Darcy Graham are the back replacements, which suggests captain Stuart Hogg will be back-up stand-off should Finn Russell have to go off for some reason.


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“We are well aware of the threats posed by an experienced Ireland squad and our players have prepared for a contest they know is going to require one of their best performances,” said head coach Gregor Townsend.

“We had prepared well for our postponed game against France, and the players have adapted well to the change of plans and have brought real energy and focus to our training sessions this week.”

“Playing Ireland is always a physical affair and one that demands you keep stepping up to make tackles or contest for possession. They have played well in their opening three games of the Championship and have some outstanding players in their squad. It should be a cracking game.”

Scotland (v Ireland on Sunday, at Murrayfield Stadium, kick-off 3pm GMT): S Hogg©; S Maitland, C Harris, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; F Russell, A Price; R Sutherland, G Turner, W Nel, S Cummings, J Gray, J Ritchie, H Watson, M Fagerson. Substitutes: D Cherry, J Bhatti, S Berghan, G Gilchrist, N Haining, S Steele, H Jones, D Graham.

Ireland: H Keenan; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; J Sexton©, J Gibson-Park; C Healy, R Herring, T Furlong, I Henderson, J Ryan, T Beirne, W Connors, C Stander. Substitutes: R Kelleher, D Kilcoyne, A Porter, R Baird, J Conan, C Murray, B Burns, J Larmour.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)


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About David Barnes 3804 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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.

24 Comments

  1. Maitland was like a lost sheep for Saracens against the mighty Cornish Pirates last weekend, and when the pressure was on he displayed poor body language and remonstrating with fellow players, clearly he thinks the Championship is a wee bit below his considerable skill level?
    He needs to front up against Ireland and produce a huge performance to keep his place?

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  2. Wonder how long into the game it will be when we get a cheap shot on one of our players like we saw POM do to Hogg not so long ago….

    Strong side and glad that we’ve got some snarl in there. If we can hold our own up front we have a good chance of winning this.

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  3. Interesting that Harris/Johnson back, a pair better in defense than attack. Still to have Graham and Jones to come on at 60 or so minutes is just what the coach ordered. The backs we now have available is impressive , even Matt Scott made Flatman’s premiership 15 last weekend. I think the most important thing to get right is the psychology, the Irish Pro 14 teams have had little trouble with both Edinburgh and Glasgow this season, they are up the top of the league we are languishing at the bottom and may even end up in the Challenge cup next year. We need to start at 100mph blow Sexton off the pitch and never let up, big ask but that’s what separates the men from the boys.

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  4. Huw Jones should be starting. Looks dangerous for Warriors every time he gets the ball recently.

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    • Harris is nailed on and a lions candidate atm. Jones is versatile and will be a great impact sub in the last 20.

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  5. Skinner couldn’t get near the Exeter team until Gray Ewers and Hill were called up for the 6n. He’s more versatile than Gilchrist but not as good as a lock, I can’t say I’m surprised Gregor picked the latter. I’d bet Richard Cockerill wishes he hadn’t.

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    • Maitland is a Rolls Royce of a player, does everything well, fully 100% justifies his inclusion

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  6. Gilchrist, really??? Not sure what Skinner has to do, but assume that GT has a concern re lineout which is where Skinner has may be lost out….

  7. Strong team. Happy enough with that. Lets take our French frustrations out on the Irish…

  8. Sound looking team. Hope I don’t administer the kiss of death but there’s a security with Maitland in the back three. His all-round game, defensive positioning and ability under the high ball are real assets; Ireland have a strong kicking game afterall. Bit of a lack of gas at centre would be the only quibble but both bring their own qualities nonetheless.

  9. J VDW & Kebble out, Hogg replacement 10, No Skinner, he must be annoyed, Gilchrist has been average

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  10. Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Richie Gray, Cornell Du Preez, Tom Gordon, Blade Thomson , George Horne, Adam Hastings, Kyle Steyn, Cameron Redpath, Mark Bennett, Blair Kinghorn, Duncan Taylor

    Not a bad second string team not involved eh. Needs some good wingers to come through is all.

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  11. If Jamie Ritchie has “returned” to the starting XV, why have you not named him in the team?

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