Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Johnson not afraid of change

Scott Johnson's Scotland take on South Africa on Saturday

Interim Scotland head coach Scott Johnson has reacted to defeat by Samoa and the run of injuries that followed by making seven changes for the game against the Springboks at Nelspruit on Saturday.

Johnson has also had to name a new captain, with Edinburgh scrum-half Greig Laidlaw set to lead his country for the first time after Kelly Brown damaged an ankle last weekend.

The incomers include the remaining three uncapped players Johnson had taken on the tour to South Africa, meaning that by the time the game starts, all nine of those who arrived in the country without caps will have been blooded. "Some of the changes were forced, some were already planned," explained Johnson.

"We had a plan in place because we wanted to have a look at people, although the opportunity came sooner for some than maybe would have been the case without all the injuries."

The most significant changes will be those in the backs and the new-look second row where Glasgow lock Tim Swinson gets his first cap partnering Jim Hamilton, who sat out the opening game. Both have a mission to add the physical and confrontational style that Scotland missed so badly against Samoa.

Behind the scrum there is a heavy Glasgow influence with Ruaridh Jackson coming in at fly-half in place of Tom Heathcote, while Tommy Seymour, another debutant, takes the wing spot in place of Tim Visser - who drops out of the 23 altogether.

Behind them, yet another Glasgow product is the final player to be winning his first cap with Peter Murchie reaping the reward for his consistency over the course of a season where he mainly had to play second fiddle to Stuart Hogg - who is on Lions duty but still put in some notable performances.

Johnson said: "It had always been our plan to have a look at Greig Tonks in the first game and Murchie in this game, where we expect the South African style of play to suit him. He is good in defence and strong under the high ball and has earned his chance with a solid season for Glasgow - I thought he was outstanding when they beat Northampton in the Heineken Cup."

Scotland team: P Murchie (Glasgow), T Seymour (Glasgow), A Dunbar (Glasgow), M Scott (Edinburgh), S Lamont (Glasgow); R Jackson (Glasgow), G Laidlaw (Edinburgh)(C); A Dickinson (Edinburgh), S Lawson (Newcastle), E Murray (Worcester), T Swinson (Glasgow), J Hamilton (Montpellier), A Strokosch (Perpignan), R Wilson (Glasgow), J Beattie (Montpellier).

Replacements: S Lawrie (Edinburgh), J Welsh (Glasgow), M Low (Glasgow), A Kellock (Glasgow), D Denton (Edinburgh), H Pyrgos (Glasgow), P Horne (Glasgow), D Taylor (Saracens).

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