Scotland v Italy: Stuart Hogg and Scott Steele at half-back in much changed side

Dave Cherry to make first start at hooker while Alex Craig set for debut off the bench

Scott Steele will make his first start for Scotland against Italy. Image: © Craig Watson -
Scott Steele will make his first start for Scotland against Italy. Image: © Craig Watson -

SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend has made two positional and seven personnel changes to the Scotland team which started against Ireland last weekend ahead of Saturday’s match against Italy.

Captain Stuart Hogg has been shifted forward from full-back to stand-off, and will form a half-back partnership with Scott Steele, who is making his first international start at scrum-half.

Sean Maitland moves from wing to take over at full-back, with Darcy Graham returning to the starting XV in the No14 jersey, while Huw Jones replaces Chris Harris at outside centre.

Scotland v Italy: Jamie Ritchie warns of early blitz from visitors

Pierre Schoeman out for four to six weeks

Greig Laidlaw backs Scotland to make rapid recovery

Meanwhile, in the pack, Dave Cherry will make his first international start ahead of George Turner at hooker, and Zander Fagerson returns from suspension to replace WP Nel at tight-head prop.

Sam Skinner and Grant Gilchrist form an all-new second row, with Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray both injured. Gloucester lock Alex Craig is in line to make his Scotland debut off the bench after being called into the match-day 23 for the first time. The back row is unchanged.

“Saturday is an opportunity for us to show an improved performance and a much truer reflection of who we are as a team,” said Townsend. “It’s also an opportunity for a number of players in their first start of the Championship.

“How we perform physically this weekend is going to be very important, both in terms of the energy and effort that is demanded from you each time you represent Scotland, and also our impacts in every contact. Whenever we play Italy, the contact area is fiercely contested and I’m sure this game will be no different.

“Italy have been playing ambitious rugby and have performed better away from home in this year’s championship, causing both England and France a number of problems. We expect them to produce their best rugby of the season against us, so we are focused on delivering a full 80-minute performance at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.”

Scotland (v Italy on Saturday, at Murrayfield Stadium, kick-off 2.15pm GMT): S Maitland; D Graham, H Jones, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; S Hogg©, S Steele; R Sutherland, D Cherry, Z Fagerson, S Skinner, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, M Fagerson. Substitutes: G Turner, J Bhatti, S Berghan, A Craig, N Haining, A Price, J van der Walt, C Harris.

Scotland v Italy: Jamie Ritchie warns of early blitz from visitors



About David Barnes 4026 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. Had hoped to see Dobie and/ or Ashman get some game time but otherwise I’m okay with that selection. I don’t really care about the scoreline, I’d just like a win and an improved performance especially at lineout time.

  2. Good selection from Townsend, like the half back selection which I assume will be up for debate from the pundits. Scotland need to maintain discipline low penalty count, ensure the opposite do not dominate the game an area which they have failed in previous matches. I would like to see an improvement in defence and the line out. Scotland require a high scoring game GOOD LUCK.

  3. Hoggy is a great player but a huge risk at 10. Price made 2 silly mistakes one at the end of each half which cost 6 points at crucial times and his box kicking has looked suspect throughout the 6N. I like the locks, the centre pairing looks good. The young 10’s particularly Ross at Glasgow look great but need far more experience before being thrown into a test game. A huge gamble – lets see how it plays out.

    • Not really a risk, if it ends up not working to well, you just shift hogg to fullback and jaco to 10

  4. Looks like a selection for Italy but not Paris. Italy retain the ball well and should not be underestimated. Four tries must be the minimum achievement. Great to see an ex LSFC player get his first start.

  5. Not a GT fan but I put my hands up and say that I’m quite excited about the team, even if we’ve only got here by misadventure. I would have had Skinner in from the start. Fagerson improves the front row and Turner needs a break to get over the shell shock from last week. You can question Hogg at 10 rather than VDW but to be fair not sure that VDW has much mileage in him with Hastings and probably Thompson in front of him. Hogg will be more attacking. 3/4 line looks good and balanced. Bring it on

  6. Can’t imagine how Van der Walt feels, c’mon son we’re gonna draft u into the squad, but unfortunately your position is taken by the full back, so on the bench you go, but might get you on for 5 mins at flanker or if it’s your lucky day a big hitting hard charging second row?
    Good luck ???

  7. Well…..didnt expect that. Hogg is magnificent and note the best passage of play v Ireland came from Hogg to Jones….
    Potentially exciting prospect, however it’s the lack of consistency that tries me, going from very conservative to pretty much the most attacking team possible.
    Not moaning……..but…..I’m Scottish

  8. Shocking decision to start a player outside of his normal position particularly when he showed up well there last week. I’d have had Steele as first choice blindside all day.

  9. Well I did not see that one. Good to see Zander back , take it easy this time mate. Think we are all glad to see Johnson and Jones at centre and Graham on one of the wings. Hoggy at 10 well it’s a gamble , do not think he would try at if it had not been Italy. if we win well we will take it, if we lose well Gregor can expect more flak that a B17 raid over Germany.

    • Hogg at 10 because he wants to try it before we play France, or for options in future. We only ever are an injury or suspension away from a stand off crisis at least on the bench

      VDW clearly hasn’t shown up in training and his Edinburgh “form” simply not good enough.

      Hogg is such a good footballer I have every confidence in him at 10. I also remember a tyro Hogg touring with the Lions and playing 10 for the midweek team, and playing 10 for Glasgow a couple of times. He’ll be fine

  10. Wow, doesn’t this send a message to every other Scottish-qualified fly half (and particularly to Jacko VdW) that they’re not fit to start for Scotland and not as good in their own position as a full back (even one as talented as Hoggy)?! It’s a big call.

    • which other Scottish qualified fit and not suspended fly halfs are these? Apart from a couple of kids with maybe half a dozen pro starts between them?

  11. Dark arts imo Alasdair. Ireland have more power and dynamism up front, clear out rucks very, very quickly, fight for everything on the ground and manipulate tackles (get tackled player into awkward positions,twisted etc) well so it’s hard to get the ball back. They manipulate the ref well too and move point of attack at mauls with power and unpredictability. They have tallismanic, strong locks and Stander to anchir their forward play. Because they had dominance, their backs barely featured and playing a backs-centric game would’ve suited Scotland.

  12. nice to see scott steele, a member of an international set up actually getting a game in the position that got him there, had him penned in to replace russell at 10 or maybe even cummings at lock

  13. Well I don’t hate that line up. Good deployment of the available talent. On to the naughty step for a couple of last week’s offenders and a much deserved call up for replacements who did well. Still rather sorry to see no sign of Duncan Taylor anywhere. Let’s hope they’ve sorted out the lineout which has been dodgy a lot over the last couple of years and completely destroyed us at the weekend. Has anyone actually attempted to explain how and why it went so badly wrong or are we just accepting that we were completely out thought and outplayed?

    • My guess on the line out is that O’Connell knew we were only going to throw to one of the two locks, and they competed for everything. Richie McCaw once said a world class line out needs 5 targets. Think we need to use Fagerson and Ritchie as options.

      • this is why Townsend picked Blade Thomson. Richie should be a better lineout option, its one area of weakness whether its his weakness or coaches not using him is the question
        Last week Ireland had 3 lighthouses and could track our 2 jumpers easily with a man put up at the front as well to disrupt. We should have had a couple of plays to offset that simply and get balance back – that is an issue for coaches and lineout caller more than the hooker

    • we have missed a few key lineouts but overall the lineout had gone really well until last week

  14. Like the look of that team. Skinner perhaps should’ve been in sooner but little point on dwelling on it, would prefer Haining starting, always seems to get across gain-line. Skinner and Gilchrist are a much more physical pairing than Gray and Cummings. Nice balance at centre too.

      • Davosa, yup. All professional locks are big, strong men so everything is relative. The point made was not around work-rate or how many tackles each make. Wainwright’s recent interview wherein he discusses Gray’s Lion’s prospects in an impromtu dialogue with Gatland is a perfect summation: he wasn’t picked because Gatland didn’t consider him an “impact player”. I.e. he doesn’t have the ‘dog’/aggression/big hitting, however you want to put it, to meet Gatland’s citeria. Gray is a great player all the same but workrate doesn’t equate to physicality. Gilchrist runs hard and puts himself about – doesn’t necessarily make him a superior player but for me he makes the most of his attributes :-)

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