John Barclay will make his first Scotland start in nearly two years after being given another chance to press his claims for a Rugby World Cup spot after being included on Thursday in the team for Saturday’s warm-up match against Italy at Murrayfield.
Back-row forward Barclay, who plays for Welsh regional side Scarlets, spent more than 18 months in the international wilderness, until being recalled by Scotland coach Vern Cotter for this month’s warm-up defeat by Ireland in Dublin, where he came on as a second-half replacement.
But Barclay is back in the starting XV, with Cotter having made 14 changes to the team that ran on to beat Italy 16-12 in Turin last weekend – experienced winger Sean Lamont the only player to retain his place.
Barclay is in a back-row also featuring David Denton and Ryan Wilson, with the lock pairing of Grant Gilchrist and Jonny Gray re-united after Gilchrist withdrew on the morning of last weekend’s match through sickness.
The front-row Edinburgh trio of Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and Willem Nel have been rewarded for their impressive replacement appearances against the Azzurri in Turin with starts this weekend.
Greig Laidlaw, the Scotland captain, and halfback partner Finn Russell will look to bring a back three featuring Lamont, fullback Stuart Hogg and Harlequins winger Tim Visser into the action, with the Glasgow pair of Peter Horne and Mark Bennett in midfield.
“It’s a good indication of our growing quality and depth that we’re able to pitch another quite different, yet talented, side into battle this Saturday,” said Cotter.
“Many of these players have worked hard all summer long and have had to wait patiently on the sidelines for this opportunity,” the New Zealander added.
“They’re keen to pull on the jersey, get out there and put in a strong performance as part of a successful Scotland team.”
This will be Scotland’s final home warm-up match, with Cotter’s side away to France in Paris next weekend.
Scotland have been drawn in Pool B with South Africa, Samoa, Japan and the United States.
Stuart Hogg; Sean Lamont, Mark Bennett, Peter Horne, Tim Visser; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); David Denton, John Barclay, Ryan Wilson; Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist; Willem Nel, Ross Ford, Alasdair Dickinson. Res: Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Robert Harley, Blair Cowan, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Matt Scott