Experienced squad named for NatWest 6 Nations finale

Head Coach Gregor Townsend has announced five changes to the Scotland team to start this Saturday’s final 2018 NatWest 6 Nations Test against Italy in Rome (17 March, kick-off 12.30pm GMT) – live on ITV.

The changes mean the most experienced squad to be named in the tenure of the current coaching group will travel to the Italian capital seeking to secure a third championship win from five rounds, having defeated France and England at BT Murrayfield earlier in the campaign.

Wing Tommy Seymour [pictured below] has recovered from the back injury (sustained against England) that ruled him out of last weekend’s loss against Ireland, to replace Blair Kinghorn (who returns to the bench) and reinstate the back-three with Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland.

Glasgow Warriors centre Nick Grigg also comes into the backline for his first Six Nations start, alongside club mate Huw Jones, in place of Pete Horne who also joins the replacements.

Townsend has made three further changes to the pack, with hooker Fraser Brown, prop Willem Nel and lock Tim Swinson all promoted from the bench in place of Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan and Grant Gilchrist.

McInally is retained in the match-day 23 with a place on the bench, while new squad additions Richie Gray and Zander Fagerson backfill for promoted pair Swinson and Nel to feature for the first time in the campaign, having recovered from their respective calf and foot ailments.

Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend, said: “We’ve had a deeper look at the Ireland game, where we performed well in areas that will have to be better this weekend.

"There were a number of positives in how we took the game to Ireland in attack and defence but this didn’t lead to us scoring enough points to win the game.

"We’ve been pleased with how the players have responded to last week’s disappointment, with the energy they have brought to training and a determination to improve our performance in our final match in this year’s NatWest 6 Nations."

He added: “Playing Italy will be a very tough game – it always has been for any Scotland side. We are ready for the challenge and have an experienced group of players working hard to finish our campaign with a positive performance and result.”

The starting line-up is completed by the half-back partnership of Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell, and the back-row unit of captain John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson, for a fourth successive NatWest 6 Nations Test, while lock Jonny Gray and loosehead prop Gordon Reid also return, as two of seven players to start every Test this campaign (Hogg, Jones, Russell, Barclay and Watson the other five).

Scotland team to play Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome

NatWest 6 Nations Round 5: Saturday 17 March (kick-off 12.30pm GMT) – live on ITV

15. Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 59 caps

14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 42 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 15 caps
12. Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
11. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 33 caps

10. Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 36 caps
9. Greig Laidlaw VICE CAPTAIN (Clermont Auvergne) – 62 caps

1. Gordon Reid (London Irish) – 31 caps
2. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 30 caps
3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) – 21 caps
4. Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – 35 caps
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 42 caps
6. John Barclay CAPTAIN (Scarlets) – 70 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 19 caps
8. Ryan Wilson VICE CAPTAIN (Glasgow Warriors) – 36 caps


16. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) – 16 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) – 7 caps
18. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 15 caps
19. Richie Gray (Toulouse) – 64 caps
20. David Denton (Worcester Warriors) – 38 caps
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 15 caps
22. Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 32 caps
23. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) – 2 caps