Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Scott Johnson shuffles his pack after Aussie loss

Stuart Hogg is back for Scotland after a wrist injury
Stuart Hogg is back for Scotland after a wrist injury

Scotland head coach Scott Johnson has made four changes to his side which kicked off Scotland's last outing, a 21-15 defeat by Australia at Murrayfield in November.

Stuart Hogg will make his first appearance for the Scots since last year's competition when they run out at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on Sunday to face Ireland.

He missed the summer tour to South Africa while he was Down Under representing the British and Irish Lions and then the autumn tests with a wrist injury.

Centre Alex Dunbar, second row Tim Swinson and flanker Ryan Wilson all come in for the first Six Nations starts, with Johnnie Beattie drops to the bench after illness and Nick De Luca and Grant Gilchrist are left out completely.

Johnson has also shifted New Zealand-born wing Sean Maitland back to his more natural position after Hogg's Warriors team-mate was forced to fill in at 15 during his recent absence.

But the coach says the rest of his team selection was based purely on form.

"The autumn was a chance for us to have a look at some players and try to increase the depth of the squad," he said as he also reflected on a six-try win over Japan, the humiliating 28-0 defeat by the Springboks and the narrow loss to the Wallabies at the end of last year.

"On this squad I have gone for the players available for selection and I have largely based that on international form or regional form – it is reward for both."

The one surprise omission from his match-day 23 is Glasgow fly-half Ruaridh Jackson.

His slot goes to his Scotstoun team-mate Duncan Weir but Johnson implies Jackson – culpable for two of the four tries conceded against South Africa in the autumn – has work to do to reclaim his place from Weir.

He said: "Dunccy has got an obvious skill set that enhances our game if we get it right. He's done well by adding some things to his game. He's become an attacking threat and we like that."

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