SCOTLAND interim head coach Scott Johnson has pulled no rabbits out of the hat with his selection for the opening autumn Test match against Japan on Saturday, naming a side today that aims to work the promise of the summer tour around an experienced spine.
Kelly Brown returns as captain after injury forced his early withdrawal from the summer tour to South Africa, for his tenth game as skipper and 59th Test appearance, while Tommy Seymour and Tim Swinson, who made their debuts on tour, step in for their first appearances at Murrayfield.
Brown is one of six changes and two further positional switches from Scotland’s last match – the last-gasp 30-29 victory over Italy in the quadrangular tournament in June. British and Irish Lions Sean Maitland and Ryan Grant return with Nick De Luca, Ruaridh Jackson and Ross Ford alongside Brown with David Denton and Alasdair Strokosch also moving back to their more customary back-row berths.
Stuart Hogg is out injured and the fourth Lion, Richie Gray, now based in Castres, has to make his way back via the bench, with Alastair Kellock and Swinson being handed the starting second row berths, which underlines the strength in depth Johnson is eager to develop through the squad. John Barclay is also back involved, having missed the summer tour, but he also starts among the replacements.
Johnson stated: “We are looking to the future and we’re also looking at people’s futures too. This selection is a first chance for some to put their hand up. We have a 22-months campaign pre-World Cup and one of the mantras is ‘this could be your last Test match’.
“It’s not a right to play for your country. You have to go out there and perform. It’s important that these guys who have got the jerseys go out and perform.”
Johnson described Japan – conquerors of Wales during the summer – as a “formidable” team who have improved by leaps and bounds in recent years.
He added: “Saturday is a good chance for the players to show their wares. Japan are well-coached, have a great work ethic and really good knowledge of rugby now.”
Tickets for the game are still available from £15 for adults and from £5 for under-18s and students from www.scottishrugby.org; via the credit card hotline on 0844 335 3933 or in person from the SRU Ticket Centre at Murrayfield.
Full interviews with Johnson and Scotland players will feature in tomorrow’s Scotsman.
Scotland (v Japan in the viagogo Autumn Test at Murrayfield on Saturday 9 November, kick-off 2.30pm)
15 Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps, 1 try, 5 points
14 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) 2 caps
13 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh Rugby) 38 caps, 1 try, 5 points
12 Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby) 15 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
11 Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors) 79 caps, 11 tries, 55 points
10 Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) 21
caps, 3 conversions, 2 penalties, 2 drop-goals, 18 points
9 Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby) 21 caps, 2 tries, 21 conversions, 47 penalties, 193 points
1 Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), 10 caps
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) 68 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
3 Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors) 56 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
4 Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) 2
5 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) 55 caps, 1 try, 5 points
6 Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan) 35 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
7 Kelly Brown (Saracens) 58 caps, 4 tries, 20 points CAPTAIN
8 David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby) 14 caps
16 Pat MacArthur (Glasgow Warriors) 1 cap
17 Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby) 27 caps, 1 try, 5 points
18 Geoff Cross (Edinburgh Rugby) 22 caps, 1 try, 5 points
19 Richie Gray (Castres) 31 caps, 1 try, 5 points
20 John Barclay (Scarlets) 41 caps, 2 tries, 10
21 Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) 9 caps, 1 try, 5 points
22 Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps, 1 conversion, 2 points
23 Duncan Taylor (Saracens) 3 caps
Referee: J P Doyle (England).
Assistant referees: Leighton Hodges (Wales) and Greg Garner (England).
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland).