JACK DEMPSEY has been named at No 8 in a re-shuffled Scotland back-row which sees Matt Fagerson move to blindside flanker, Jamie Ritchie shift to open-side and Hamish Watson drop of the bench, ahead of Sunday’s Six Nations clash against Ireland at Murrayfield.
Meanwhile, Jonny Gray replaces the suspended Grant Gilchrist in the second-row, where he will partner brother Richie, with Scott Cummings named ahead of Sam Skinner as bench cover. Simon Berghan is also added to the bench as tight-head cover.
The backline is unchanged from the line-up which started Scotland’s three previous matches in this championship, meaning that Stuart Hogg – named as a vice-captain – will earn his 100th cap from full-back. Head coach Gregor Townsend has gone from a 6-2 to a 5-3 split on the bench meaning that Chris Harris joins the replacement.
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Townsend had particular words of praise for centurion Hogg. “It is an incredible achievement and very well deserved,” he said. “He has been one of our best players of our last ten years and also in the history of Scottish rugby. We put a tribute video together the other day when we announced the team and some of the tries he scored, some of the victories he has been involved has been fantastic, and also the creative nature of his game, we has created a lot of tries for other people. His durability, his love of the jersey and of playing the game has been constant throughout that period. It is a great game to win your 100th cap at home with a trophy at stake.
“As a person there have been changes, married, family three young children and he has had different life experiences. But I also see the same person in that he likes being out on the field and loves being cheeky with the coaches and he loves the history of the game and old rugby stories and what us coaches did, so he loved talking to us about that.
“The constant as well is his basic skills. He blew me away at Glasgow to see his passes off either hand, his kicking ability from age 19 and 20. That has been the fundamental about his game. You give him the ball and he can put people away with his pass, he is able to kick and his pace can create gaps for himself and also put wingers away, so he has been one of the best rugby players I have ever had the pleasure to work with.
“He’ll lead the team out for his 100th cap and I’m sure the crowd will want to show their love for him and appreciation for what he’s done in that jersey,” Townsend added. “This week he’s trained the best ever, certainly the best of this season. He’s responded really well to being named in the team and having the players congratulating him on his 100th cap. He’s in great physical shape. I know he wanted to play for Exeter last weekend but I messaged him to say, take it as a positive as not playing means he’ll be really fresh for this weekend.”
Townsend was also asked if his back-row selection is designed to combat the specific threat posed by Ireland.
“It’s more because of what Jack’s been doing off the bench and in training,”he replied. “He’s been really consistent in how he’s performed in training and he’s taken that into the bench. We feel that this is the right time to see this blend. They’re all ball carriers as is Hamish and he’ll have a big role to play in the last quarter of the game or longer potentially. We’re playing the top side in the world and the last 20 minutes is going to be very important.
“We’ve been working well in training and the players know there will be opportunities in this game that we didn’t take in Paris,” he continued. “There are improvements we can make in the defensive side as well. But it’s also the best Ireland side that we’ve faced. They’ve had three big wins and they’ve named probably their strongest team to face us this weekend. So while we’re improving – or have improved – we still have more improvement in us.
“We talked the other day about why are Ireland the world number one in the world. We look at the players and what their strengths are. They have excellent players who know each other and will take confidence from their wins. It’s a big challenge for us but it’s one that we’re ready for.”
Scotland (v Ireland at Marrayfield, in Edinburgh, Saturday @ 3pm): S Hogg (VC); K Steyn, H Jones, S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; F Russell, B White; P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson, R Gray, J Gray (VC), M Fagerson, J Ritchie©, J Dempsey. Substitutes: F Brown, J Bhatti, S Berghan, S Cummings, H Watson, A Price, B Kinghorn, C Harris.
National One: Kelso host Ayr in crunch match – runners, riders and verdict
Starting 15 look good but our front 3 replacements don’t look nearly on a par with Ireland. Wish them all the best but Brown’s arrows looking really poor recently and as others have said replacement props not great – hope they prove me very wrong! Like others worried at no Nel. When is Darcy due back he would be the icing on the back-line cake! And lets start with a massive cheer for Mr Hogg a fabulous servant of Scottish Rugby,
Nel hasn’t let anyone down when he’s came on, he may not have the gas in the loose but Ireland will be going for them in the scrum and Bergan has failed to convince there. Mixing up the back row makes no sense. Play the best players in their club position, Fagerson has been outstanding at 8 this championship and so has Dempsey , doesn’t mean you have to find ways to get them both on at the same time. This is a game where Crosbie and skinner may have shined, certainly need their grunt. Based on his performance last weekend I’d have had Mcinally on the bench instead of Brown.
What gives me some confidence is that Luke Pearce and Wayne Barnes are leading the match officials team. Good referees = good games. Scotland will want to play.
Well done to Hoggy on your 100th cap, lets have a game to remember from you sir. As for the rest it’s as expected really maybe with the exception of the starting of Dempsey that’s interesting. Interesting also is Cummings on the bench along with Watson, who is not the man of old at the moment. Other than that sorry no Horne and no word on Graham yet? we are in for a hard game. It’s essential we slow Ireland down a bit and take every chance we get in the 22, we did not quite take all our chances against France we must against Ireland. This could be a classic, I hope so.
Berghan on the bench for tight head cover is a brave call. Is WP Nel injured?
I don’t think it’s brave, just madness. Berghan vs Porter, umm!! Maybe that Nel isn’t fit but I would have Rae (who I appreciate isn’t even in the squad for some reason) or Sebastian in front of Berghan.
Not a big fan of Brown either and if facing a big physical pack, surprised Crosbie isn’t on the bench. 21 – 23 are ok-ish, provided Kinghorn isn’t needed as a replacement for Finn.
I’ve been following a lot of Irish commentary, some saying how the Scots are arrogant. No idea where they get that from. Maybe a grudge from them not realising we don’t automatically vote for Celtic nations.
They are rightfully favourites but it’s no foregone conclusion. I look forward to it playing out. Loved watching Scotland each game so far.
Strong team and a very decent bench. The back row is interesting with Dempsey in there. Clearly the coaches have gone for a more direct ball carrying option. Ritchie will need to be all over the Irish players at ruck time and snaffling ball as much as possible. Backline is excellent but they need the pack to front up. Ireland just beat us up so often, get us in our 22 and grind the life out of us with their forwards barging over from close quarters. The pack need to have a massive game and we need to keep the ball moving, then we have a chance. They will want a structured game, we want to make it a more broken game. Come on!
How can you leave George Horne out of your team????
Perhaps Townsend doesn’t think he has the physical stature/presence can’t think of any other reason. Good luck to the lads.
Ben White has been a relevation at scrum half and is very good alongside Russell, providing both quick ball and excellent sniping ability. Horne is a great wee runner but can only play one way, White and Price know how to mix their game up more.