Hogg fit to face Fiji as Scotland ring the changes

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Serupepeli Vularika flicks a pass during the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians training session at Albert Park in Suva on Tuesday, June 05, 2018. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

EDINBURGH, Nov 8 (Reuters) – A fit again Stuart Hogg will be back to bolster Scotland for Saturday’s test against Fiji as coach Gregor Townsend made nine changes to the side that were beaten by Wales last weekend.

Townsend delayed announcing the team by 24 hours as he waited anxiously to see if British & Irish Lions fullback Hogg would be passed fit after ankle surgery in September, having been unhappy with his backline in the 21-10 loss to Wales in Cardiff last week.

Captain Greig Laidlaw returns at scrumhalf for the Murrayfield clash, while Finn Russell takes over from Adam Hastings in the flyhalf berth.

Centre Huw Jones has paid the price for his two missed tackles that led to Welsh tries and drops out of the matchday squad altogether, with Alex Dunbar moving into the number 13 jersey and Pete Horne elevated from the bench at 12.

Sean Maitland comes in on the wing as Townsend says it was important to add experience to the backline.

“It’s a more experienced side this week in terms of time together at this level, while we’ve rewarded some of those who performed well off the bench with the chance to start,” he said.

There are also plenty of changes in the pack, with lock Sam Skinner to make his debut. He will be partnered in the second row by Grant Gilchrist.

The backrow sees Ryan Wilson move from number eight to flank, Jamie Ritchie switch from openside to blindside flank and Matt Ferguson come in at the back of the scrum.

Last weekend’s captain Stuart McInally drops to the bench and is replaced at hooker by Fraser Brown.

“They (Fiji) pose huge threats off turnover ball, utilising some of the best individual players, one-on-one, in the world,” Townsend said.

“They score more tries than any team in the world off turnover ball, about 66 percent, whereas most teams are under about 10 or 15 percent.

“That presents us with an opportunity to consider different approaches tactically and use different strategies to apply pressure.”

Scotland have been drawn alongside Samoa in next year’s World Cup in Japan, with Saturday’s clash giving them a taste of facing a physical Pacific island nation.

“We have to be physical and accurate, play to our strengths and put them under pressure in areas they don’t want to go into, to make sure the game is open for us but not for them,” Townsend added.

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