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Johnson returns as Townsend changes ten for Tbilisi trip

Johnson returns as Townsend changes ten for Tbilisi trip

Sam Johnson scored a stunning solo try against England in the 2019 Championship (Inpho)

  • Johnson partners Rory Hutchinson in midfield, the latter making his first Scotland start
  • Russell and Laidlaw paired in half-backs again
  • Scotland face Georgia this weekend in their third warm-up game pre-RWC 2019

Sam Johnson returns to the Scotland starting XV for the first time since his breakout 2019 Guinness Six Nations as head coach Gregor Townsend rings the changes once again for their trip to Georgia.

Townsend’s team shows ten changes in all to the starting XV from the team that downed France last weekend as they continue their World Cup warm-ups against Georgia in Tbilisi.

Johnson partners Rory Hutchinson – who is making his first start in Scotland colours – in midfield outside an experienced half-back pairing of Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw.

In the back three Sean Maitland is the only man retained from the France victory, Blair Kinghorn and Darcy Graham both joining him.

Up front Allan Dell and Willem Nel prop up recalled captain Stuart McInally while Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist get the nod in the second row.

Man of the match last time out Hamish Watson remains in the back row, this time alongside John Barclay and Matt Fagerson.

And after naming an experienced side, Townsend admits he is expecting a fearsome test against Georgia.

“We’re pleased to welcome Sam [Johnson] back into the side,” he said. “Having performed so well for us in the spring, while a number of other players also get the opportunity to build on Saturday’s performance.

“There were improvements in our back-to-back games against France, in particular in defence, game management and at scrum, as well some elements of our attack.

“All of these will be put to the test against a very good Georgian side who we expect to be extremely motivated by their passionate home support.

“We’re expecting a very physical and confrontational encounter, which will be a great test for our squad.

“In order to rise to this challenge, we must take the game to our hosts right from the start, playing with relentless effort and accuracy.”

Scotland team to play Georgia in the Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi (kick-off 5pm BST, 8pm local time) – live on Premier Sports

15. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh)
14. Darcy Graham (Edinburgh)
13. Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints)
12. Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors)
11. Sean Maitland (Saracens)
10. Finn Russell (Racing 92)
9. Greig Laidlaw VICE CAPTAIN (Clermont Auvergne)

1. Allan Dell (London Irish)
2. Stuart McInally CAPTAIN (Edinburgh)
3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh)
4. Ben Toolis (Edinburgh)
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh)
6. John Barclay VICE CAPTAIN (Edinburgh)
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh)
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors)

Replacements:
16. Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors)
17. Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh)
18. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors)
19. Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors)
20. Josh Strauss (Blue Bulls)
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors)
22. Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors)
23. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors)