Hogg at fly-half as Scotland make changes for Italy Six Nations match

·3-min read
Positional switch - Scotland captain Stuart Hogg

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend is looking forward to seeing "world-class" full-back Stuart Hogg at fly-half after installing his captain at No. 10 for Saturday's Six Nations international against Italy at Murrayfield.

Hogg takes over at stand-off from Finn Russell, who suffered a concussion during last week's 27-24 loss at home to Ireland, even though Townsend had Edinburgh fly-half Jaco van der Walt in his squad.

Exeter double-winner Hogg has previously taken over at fly-half during matches, including in last week's loss and in Scotland's victory over Wales in October, when both Russell and Adam Hastings were injured.

"Hoggy obviously covered 10 last week and has done so in previous games," said Townsend after naming his team on Thursday.

"We believe that gives us a better balance to the team."

"If he's going to be a reserve 10 in our squad at times this is a good opportunity to see him starting there," the former Scotland fly-half added.

"I think Stuart is one of the best full-backs in the world. Full-back is his position but given his experience, his leadership, his ability and all-round skill-set, we see him being able to cover other positions as required."

Another positional switch means Sean Maitland will fill the gap at full-back left by Hogg's move.

In addition, Townsend has made five personnel changes, with centre Huw Jones rewarded with a place in the starting line-up after scoring his first Test try in three years off the bench last week.

Darcy Graham takes Maitland's place on the wing and Harlequins scrum-half Scott Steele replaces Ali Price.

In the pack, locks Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings are out injured, leading to recalls for Grant Gilchrist and Sam Skinner.

Dave Cherry replaces George Turner at hooker following Scotland's poor lineout display against the Irish and prop Zander Fagerson returns from suspension following his red card against Wales.

- 'Consistency' -

Scotland started the Championship by beating reigning champions England but they have since suffered narrow defeats by Wales and Ireland -- notable for self-inflicted wounds.

"We're trying to achieve consistency by winning every game and that's what we're working towards," said Townsend. "You have to learn from every game, learn from when it goes well and learn from when it doesn't."

The coach added that he was still waiting to be told when Scotland's postponed third-round match against France would take place, even though there is widespread speculation it will now be played on March 26.

The match in Paris was delayed by a coronavirus outbreak in the French camp.

Scotland will be huge favourites to defeat an Italy side who have lost their past 31 Six Nations matches.

But Townsend said Italy had performed better away from home this year and that he expected the Azzurri to "produce their best rugby of the season against us".

Scotland (15-1)

Sean Maitland; Darcy Graham, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Stuart Hogg (capt), Scott Steele; Matt Fagerson, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie; Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner; Zander Fagerson, David Cherry, Rory Sutherland

Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Alex Craig, Nick Haining, Ali Price, Jaco van der Walt, Chris Harris

Coach: Gregor Townsend (SCO)

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