Skinner to make Six Nations debut
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs forward Sam Skinner will make his Guinness Six Nations Championship debut after he was today named in the Scotland squad to face Italy in their tournament opener at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The 23-year-old, who won three Test caps during the recent Autumn Series, will start in the back-row for Gregor Townsend’s side, who will be looking to kick-start their campaign on a high.
Elsewhere, Glasgow Warriors inside centre Sam Johnson will make his Scotland debut. The Australia-born midfielder is one of three uncapped players named in the match-day 23, with former Fosroc Academy and Leicester Tigers hooker Jake Kerr joined by Newcastle Falcons back-row Gary Graham on the bench.
Johnson is one of six personnel changes to the team that started Scotland’s final home Autumn Test win over Argentina (14-9).
Glasgow Warriors wing Tommy Seymour replaces Saracens’ Sean Maitland, who has failed to recover sufficiently from a hamstring injury sustained while representing his club side.
The four remaining changes come in the pack, where hooker Stuart McInally, lock Ben Toolis, and back-row forwards 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.
The changes mean an all-Edinburgh tight-five will take to the field as Toolis partners Grant Gilchrist in the second-row and McInally packs down with front-row colleagues Allan Dell and Willem Nel.
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, who will join the Chiefs at the start of next season, and Blair Kinghorn form the back-three with the incoming Seymour.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Taylor, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, WP Nel, Stuart McInally, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berhan, 19 Gary Graham, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Ali Price, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Chris Harris