Stand-off Adam Hastings has been given the job of replacing Finn Russell as Scotland kick-off their Guinness Six Nations campaign against Ireland on Saturday.
Russell was told by head coach Gregor Townsend he would not be involved at the Aviva Stadium after being disciplined for breaching team rules last week following an alleged late-night drinking session at the Dark Blues’ team hotel.
It remains to be seen if the Racing 92 star will feature at all during this year’s championships but Hastings will get his chance to prove he can plot a route to success after being handed the number 10 jersey for the Dublin opener.
Edinburgh number eight Nick Haining will also win his first cap against Andy Farrell’s team while his club team-mate prop Rory Sutherland will make his first international appearance in three-and-a-half years.
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT 🏴
Scotland team named to face Ireland in the opening round of the 2020 #GuinnessSixNations in Dublin.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) January 30, 2020
Back-rower Hamish Watson and scrum-half Ali Price – both injured in the Scots’ opening World Cup clash with Irish back in September – make their return to Townsend’s line-up after returning to fitness, while there is also a comeback for Huw Jones at centre after he missed the cut for the tournament in Japan.
The match will also see Stuart Hogg lead out the team for the first time since being handed the Scotland captaincy on a permanent basis.
Ireland swept Townsend’s team aside 27-3 in Yokohama and the coach is looking for a major improvement this weekend.
Townsend – who has spent the week in Spain preparing his team for their first match of this year’s competition – 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, focused 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.
“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.”