IT TAKES a brave coach to drop a player who has just scored a hat-trick. But then, Gregor Townsend has never been timid when it comes to team selections.
There had been hints over the past week that Sean Maitland would return to the Scotland team to face Ireland after missing out against Italy, and so it has proven, with the Saracens back taking the place of Blair Kinghorn, whose three tries contributed so much to last week’s 33-20 win.
The restoration of Maitland is one of four changes to the starting 15 for Saturday, the other three all being in the pack. Simon Berghan replaces the injured WP Nel at tighthead, Jonny Gray is in at lock for Ben Toolis, and Josh Strauss taking over in the back row from Sam Skinner, who like Nel was injured in last week’s win.
Strauss plays at No 8, while Ryan Wilson, who started there against Italy, moves to Skinner’s position of blindside. Uncapped Glasgow tighthead D’Arcy Rae is cover for Berghan on the bench, and his Warriors team-mate Rob Harley is also among the substitutes, taking the place that was occupied by Strauss. Two other fit-again Glasgow players, hooker Fraser Brown and centre Pete Horne, also return to the bench.
John Hardie, who might well have been on the bench instead of Harley, is listed as unavailable through injury, as are George Horne and Lee Jones in addition to Nel and Skinner. There are a host of others, of course, who have been ruled out longer term.
Scotland (v Ireland at Murrayfield, Saturday, 2.15pm): Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson, Jamie Ritchie, Josh Strauss. Substitutes: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, D’Arcy Rae, Ben Toolis, Rob Harley, Ali Price, Peter Horne, Blair Kinghorn.
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