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Johnson keeps faith for Italy clash

Interim Scotland coach Scott Johnson is keeping changes to a minimum for this weekend's match against Italy after his team put in a much-improved performance against South Africa last weekend.

The changes that have been forced upon Johnson see Al Kellock come in at lock for Jim Hamilton, who has been allowed to go home for family reasons, flanker David Denton replace Ryan Wilson, who dislocated a shoulder, and Tom Heathcote takes Ruaridh Jackson's slot after the fly-half failed to recover from the shoulder problem that forced him off.

Johnson also revealed that he hopes to be able to bring Fraser Brown off the bench at some stage in the game. Getting more newcomers onto the field had always been a main focus of the trip, he revealed. "We didn't want to say that before the tour, I didn't think it would send out the right message and I didn't want to hand caps out," Johnson said.

"I wanted to make sure that people earned their stripes but I kept talking about expanding the base. We all know there are questions about players: what skill sets have they got, can they go to the next level, does he suit international rugby?

"We have always had the questions, this tour was about finding some answers. We don't have them all but we are a good way down the track, which is a good place to be."

For the players, there is both the extra confidence of knowing they impressed their coach, but also the pressure of having to deliver at least as good a performance and sustain it for the whole game. "We were proud of the performance, for the most part, but failed to get across the finishing line in the lead," pointed out Greig Laidlaw, the captain.

"We were disappointed to lose the game; something we aim to put right this weekend. Italy are coming off the back of two big defeats, so we need to get at them early doors and make them doubt themselves. In the past, the first 20 minutes have been key, if we keep them unsettled, especially at altitude, and try to run them about, it will stand us in good stead."

Team to play Italy in Pretoria on Saturday, June 22, kick-off 1315BST:

P Murchie (Glasgow Warriors); T Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), A Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), M Scott (Edinburgh), S Lamont (Glasgow Warriors); T Heathcote (Bath), G Laidlaw (Edinburgh, capt); A Dickinson (Edinburgh), S Lawson (Newcastle), E Murray (Worcester), T Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), A Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), D Denton (Edinburgh), A Strokosch (Perpignan), J Beattie (Montpellier).

Replacements: F Brown (Glasgow Warriors), M Low (Glasgow Warriors), J Welsh (Glasgow Warriors), G Gilchrist (Edinburgh), R Harley (Glasgow Warriors), H Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors), D Taylor (Saracens), T Visser (Edinburgh).


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