Eight Edinburgh players selected for Six Nations opener
Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend has selected eight Edinburgh players - including an all-capital tight-five - in his team for this weekend’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Italy at BT Murrayfield Stadium (Saturday, 2 February, kick-off 2.15pm) – live on BBC.
Props Allan Dell and WP Nel, hooker Stuart McInally – who is named as vice-captain - and locks Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis are all selected in the pack alongside back-row Jamie Ritchie.
Blair Kinghorn is named on the wing and is the capital side’s only back selected in the starting XV.
Elsewhere, tighthead prop Simon Berghan is named amongst the replacements and if involved will win his 15th international cap.
Ahead of the fixture, Townsend, said: “It’s a privilege to be involved in the Guinness Six Nations, a tournament that has grown in quality over the past few seasons. You can sense the excitement throughout the rugby world on the eve of this year’s Championship and we're looking forward to our starting our campaign at BT Murrayfield.
“Italy have made life tough for Scotland in every Test match we’ve played. I remember that as a player, as a supporter and as a coach – and they were better than us in most of last season’s contest in Rome. They played with pace, were physical and we had to play really, really well in the final quarter to win.
"That performance and also the recent displays of Benetton Treviso are sharp reminders for our players that this will be a difficult fixture.
"Our challenge is to win the physical battle, which is a strength of Italian rugby. We will also have to bring energy and accuracy in order to get our campaign off to a winning start.”
The inclusion of Sam Johnson - who is makes his international debut - in the centre is one of six personnel changes to the team that started Scotland’s final home Autumn Test win over Argentina (14-9).
Wing Tommy Seymour replaces Saracens’ Sean Maitland, who failed to recovery sufficiently from a hamstring injury sustained representing his club to compete for a place in the squad.
The four remaining changes come in the pack, where McInally, Toolis, and back-row forwards Sam Skinner and Ryan Wilson start in place of injured trio Fraser Brown (knee), Jonny Gray (shoulder) and Hamish Watson (hand), and Josh Strauss, who moves to the bench.
Clermont Auvergne scrum-half Greig Laidlaw returns to captain once more alongside Finn Russell, who reverts to his more familiar stand-off berth to accommodate the incoming Johnson, who partners clubmate Huw Jones in midfield.
Stuart Hogg and Kinghorn form the back-three with the incoming Seymour.
Scotland team to play Italy in the Guinness Six Nations
Saturday 2 February, kick-off 2.15pm – live on BBC
15. Stuart Hogg VICE-CAPTAIN (Glasgow Warriors) - 65 caps
14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) - 46 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) - 19 caps
12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) - uncapped
11. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) - 7 caps
10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) - 40 caps
9. Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Clermont Auvergne) - 66 caps
1. Allan Dell (Edinburgh) - 17 caps
2. Stuart McInally VICE-CAPTAIN (Edinburgh) - 22 caps
3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh) - 26 caps
4. Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) - 14 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) - 28 caps
6. Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) - 3 caps
7. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) - 6 caps
8. Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) - 41 caps
16. Jake Kerr (Leicester Tigers) - uncapped
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) - 11 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) - 14 caps
19. Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons) - uncapped
20. Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks) - 17 caps
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) - 19 caps
22. Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) - 7 caps
23. Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons) - 6 caps
Squad players unavailable through injury: Johnny Gray (shoulder), George Horne (shoulder), Pete Horne (knee), Lee Jones (knee), Sean Maitland (hamstring), Grant Stewart (shoulder).