Six Nations 2017: Josh Strauss in for Scotland to play Ireland

Josh Strauss in action against Ireland
Josh Strauss comes in for his 10th Scotland cap
Six Nations 2017
Dates: 4 February-18 March Coverage: BBC TV, Radio and online

Josh Strauss, Glasgow team-mate Fraser Brown and Stormers centre Huw Jones come in to Vern Cotter's Scotland starting XV for the Six Nations opener at home against Ireland on Saturday.

Strauss plays at number eight as Ryan Wilson moves to blind-side flanker.

Jones replaces Mark Bennett, having recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out of the final autumn Test against Georgia in November.

Brown's inclusion means a place on the bench for Edinburgh's Ross Ford.

Scotland team to play Ireland

Edinburgh prop Simon Berghan is the only uncapped player in the squad.

In front of Strauss and Wilson, Hamish Watson holds down the openside role he occupied throughout the autumn Tests, and brothers Jonny and Richie Gray are paired once again in the Scotland second row.

Props Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson, with only seven caps between them, are either side of Brown in the front row.

Jones became the first Scot to score two tries against Australia, when he made his first start for Scotland at Murrayfield in November, but he was injured against Argentina a week later.

He and Alex Dunbar combine again in midfield, and Cotter has opted for a familiar set of backs as Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell play at nine and 10 respectively, and full-back Stuart Hogg and wingers Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour form the back three.

Scotland in the 2017 Six Nations
Saturday, 4 February, 14:25 GMT: Scotland v Ireland
Sunday, 12 February, 15:00 GMT: France v Scotland
Saturday, 25 February, 14:25 GMT: Scotland v Wales
Saturday, 11 March, 16:00 GMT: England v Scotland
Saturday, 18 March, 12:30 GMT: Scotland v Italy

Head coach Cotter welcomed having the enthusiasm of an uncapped player and "some reasonably new players" in the squad.

"We've been growing our depth and our versatility within that, so we have a number of different options that allow us to continually attack the opposition, which is our main focus," said the New Zealander ahead of his final Six Nations in charge of Scotland.

"Facing Ireland first up doesn't get much harder.

"They are at the top of their game and will come here with confidence after beating some of the best teams in the world, including the All Blacks and Wallabies and having won the tournament twice in the past three years."

Huw Jones has scored two ties in his three games for Scotland
Huw Jones has scored two ties in his three games for Scotland

Analysis

BBC Scotland's Tom English

John Barclay's omission for Josh Strauss is the main talking point in this Scotland team. The Scarlets back-row has started nine of the last 10 Tests while Strauss has been a bit of a peripheral figure this past year. Strauss is in on the back of some powerful stuff for Glasgow in Europe. The need for ball carriers is massive in this match and Strauss, at his best, is better at that side of the game than Barclay, who can count himself unlucky.

Fraser Brown makes it ahead of Ross Ford. Brown has been superb of late. He's another ball-carrier - a stratospheric 14 carries in Glasgow's rout of Leicester - and offers more than the centurion Ford.

Huw Jones is in despite not having played since November. Cotter is hoping his game-breaking class will not be lessened by a lack of match sharpness.

Ireland's team is formidable, despite Johnny Sexton not being in it. It's an illustration of their depth that Donnacha Ryan, a standout in the second-row in the victory over New Zealand, can't now get into the 23. Jared Payne and Jordi Murphy, two more heroes from that historic victory, are long-term injuries, but Ireland are still loaded with class, power and experience.

Scotland team to face Ireland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt), Allan Dell, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson, Josh Strauss.

Replacements: Ross Ford, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Tim Swinson, John Barclay, Ali Price, Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett.

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