Haining to debut in new-look Scotland side
Edinburgh number 8 Nick Haining will make his Test debut in a new-look Scotland side named to face Ireland in the opening round of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations in Dublin (kick-off 4.45pm) – live on ITV / STV.
Their hosts have lost just one Test in the championship at home in the past five years – winning the tournament twice (2015 and 2018) in that time.
The fact that Scotland’s last win on Irish soil came some ten years ago underscores the magnitude of the task ahead with the opening defeat in the Rugby World Cup 2019 still fresh in the mind for many.
Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend, said: “We have managed to cover a lot of work in the two weeks we’ve been together and we’ve been impressed with how our players have taken on information and bonded as a team.
"Our goal is always to play to our potential. The challenge to do this starts on Saturday against Ireland.
“Playing to our potential starts with our collective mindset. That means being alert, focussed and resilient right from the beginning, to be ready for the physical battle that lies ahead and able to stay in the fight throughout the 80 minutes.
“We must be a relentless collective on the pitch and a nightmare for the Irish to deal with, while having the ability and awareness to impose our game at that intensity." Head Coach Gregor Townsend
“As coaches, we put frameworks together and create an environment for them to thrive and reach their potential but ultimately it’s the players who go out and deliver.
"We’re looking forward to seeing them play in Dublin.”
There are ten changes to the starting side that faced Japan in Scotland’s final match of the Rugby World Cup, split evenly between the forwards and backs.
The pack features a Test debut for number 8 Nick Haining, who anchors an all-Edinburgh back-row with fit-again openside Hamish Watson back in the side with returning blindside Jamie Ritchie. Magnus Bradbury misses out with a thigh strain.
Hooker Fraser Brown retains his place at the centre of the front-row and is flanked by in-form props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland, the latter featuring for the first time since the 2016 summer tour.
Captain Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) and Glasgow Warriors centre Sam Johnson are the only players retained in a back division that sees Glasgow scrum-half Ali Price and Saracens wing Sean Maitland start in place of recent international retirees Greig Laidlaw and Tommy Seymour.
Stand-off Adam Hastings has been handed the keys to number 10 for his first championship start alongside fellow Warrior, Price, with the returning outside-centre Huw Jones – alongside Johnson in midfield – adding further familiarity to the back division from the Scotstoun club.
Edinburgh back Blair Kinghorn starts in place of injured winger Darcy Graham (knee) to complete the back-three with Hogg and Maitland.
On the bench, Worcester Warriors back-row Cornell du Preez could complete an impressive return from the larynx injury he sustained representing his club in September 2018, if called upon from the bench.
Scotland team to play Ireland in Dublin
Saturday 1 February (kick-off 4.45pm) – live on ITV / STV
15. Stuart Hogg CAPTAIN (Exeter Chiefs) – 72 caps
1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh) – 3 caps
2. Fraser Brown VICE CAPTAIN (Glasgow Warriors) – 46 caps
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 25 caps
4. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – 8 caps
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 55 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) – 14 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 28 caps
8. Nick Haining (Edinburgh) – uncapped
16. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) – 33 caps
17. Allan Dell (London Irish) – 28 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 24 caps
19. Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) – 22 caps
20. Cornell du Preez (Worcester Warriors) – 6 caps
21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 10 caps
22. Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints) – 3 caps
23. Chris Harris (Gloucester) – 14 caps