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Johnson glad to have Hogg back

Scotland head coach Scott Johnson claims full-back Stuart Hogg has timed his return to form perfectly as the Dark Blues gear up for their RBS 6 Nations opener.

The Glasgow back 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.

The blisteringly quick 21-year-old shot to prominence with a brace of tries against England and Italy 12 months ago but Johnson admitted he was worried his form with his club side had dropped.

But a recent upturn has given the Australian reason to be optimistic heading into this year's Championships.

He told Press Association Sport: "Hoggy is a senior player now for being such a young lad and I'm glad he's with us, and not the other sides.

"I'm glad also that his form has started to turn. Some people take a while after a Lions tour, especially the young ones, to get back in the swing of things.

"Stuart has taken a wee while, probably longer than he wanted, to find his feet. He's had some time off in the autumn with the injury and has come back to some form lately. He's buoyed by that and so are we."

Hogg is one of four changes made to the side which kicked off Scotland's last outing, a 21-15 defeat by Australia at Murrayfield in November.

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 time 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 says 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.

"It's an opportunity for him. There's a big discussion point between him and Jacko but we have gone with Duncan because we think he can add something to our game.

"I view the starting XV and the bench very differently. We had a long discussion over the 10 position but once we got to the point that we were going to start with Duncan, the bench became it's own team, if you like.

"Jacko only plays one position largely and I wanted a little versatility on the bench.

"He's a competitive kid and he wasn't jumping through hoops when I told him he wouldn't be involved.

"But I can only be honest and as I have told the others, coaches don't pick players, players pick players.

"It's form that determines whether you'll be in the side. Ruaridh is still an integral part of our squad, he just needs to work on a couple of things."


From Belfast Telegraph